A racing pigeon has sold at auction for more than £1.4 million to a mystery Chinese buyer.
The three-year-old hen called New Kim was sold by Belgian auctioneers Pigeon Paradise (PIPA) in an online auction for 1.6 million euros on Sunday.
The sale beat the 1.25 million euros paid last year for male pigeon Armando, dubbed the Lewis Hamilton of the sport which has become highly lucrative in China.
In a frantic final half hour of bidding, two Chinese buyers using the pseudonyms Super Duper and Hitman sent the price for New Kim sky-rocketing.
The champion bird from Antwerp is likely to be used by the unnamed buyer for breeding.
‘I believe it’s a world record, there has never been an officially documented sale at such a price,’ PIPA chairman Nikolaas Gyselbrecht said. ‘I didn’t think we could reach that amount.’
New Kim won the 2018 crown as ‘Ace Pigeon Grand National Middle Distance’ in competitions held at Châteauroux and Argenton-sur-Creuse in France.
Top European birds have won global fame in recent years and particularly in China where pigeon racing can generate huge winnings.
Wealthy buyers from the Gulf and Asia have forced up prices for champion birds for their instinctive ability to fly hundreds of miles and find their way back home.
Pigeon racing for money was first recorded in China during the Ming Dynasty, from 1368 to 1644, when the birds started to be imported from Europe.