In the pigeon racing world, breeding brings big bucks — but never before as much as for New Kim, a 2-year-old female pigeon who sold for a record 1.6 million euros, about $1.9 million, after a bidding war between two Chinese buyers at a Belgian auction.

That was far above the previous auction high of $1.5 million, set last year for another Belgian pigeon, Armando, a 5-year-old male with a long winning record who went to the same Chinese buyer, publicly identified by pigeon auction house PIPA only by the pseudonym Super Duper. The record was reached Sunday after bidding started Nov. 2 at 200 euros.

In the sport, which dates back to at least the 1800s, homing pigeons are acclimated in a shared loft before being taken hundreds of miles away and released; the winner is the first to return. Soaring auction prices are only one sign of the sport's increasing glamour and competitiveness in China: Two men were convicted by a Shanghai court in 2018 of trying to fix a high-stakes race by putting their pigeons on a bullet train.

Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, founder of PIPA, compared New Kim to a Picasso painting. "It will sell more than a local American artist."

Belgium has long been a competitive hotbed for pigeon breeding and racing.

New York Times