Chinese spend big on Belgian racing pigeons

Associated Press
In this photo taken Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, China's Yi Minna, the Chief Operating Officer at the PiPa pigeon auction house which organized the Roosen sale, watches pigeons at Pigeon Paradise in Knesselare, Belgium. In one month, two auctions of Belgian racing pigeons have set one record after another, confirming Belgium as the age-old prime breeding hub and China as pigeons' new home of conspicuous consumption. It also highlights the past and future in the sport. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

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Two recent Belgian auctions of racing pigeons have brought in hundreds of thousands of euros (dollars), based on heavy bidding by wealthy Chinese buyers.

The sale of a 218-bird colony last weekend yielded a world-record ?1.368 million ($1.8 million). A single bird named Blue Prince went for ?156,000 ($205,000).

The auctions confirmed Belgium as the age-old breeding hub of the birds and China as the new center of demand.

In pigeon racing, birds are released up to 1,000 kilometers (700 miles) from their lofts. The bird that flies back fastest wins.

The sport has spread from its origins as a working-class pastime in Western Europe and developed a cachet in modern-day China, which escaped the brunt of the global financial crisis and is now spending passionately on pigeons.

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