Racing pigeons aren’t the typical bird
you’ll find on the city streets.
And these pedigree birds can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In March 2019, Armando the racing pigeon
sold to a bidder in China for over $1.4 million.
So, what is it that makes racing pigeons so expensive?
Pigeons are some of the oldest domesticated birds.
They’ve been kept for thousands of years
and used to food, sending messages, and entertainment.
用于食用 通信 以及娱乐表演
They’re appreciated not only for their speed,
but for their looks, too.
And there are over 800 breeds of pigeon,
many bred specifically to be exhibited at shows.
Messenger pigeons were used across ancient Egypt and Rome,
and their high value isn’t new.
In his book”Natural History,”
the Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote that,
And in about 50 BC,
a single pair of pigeons were sold for 400 denarii,
almost twice the annual pay of a Roman foot soldier at the time.
And right up until the invention of the telegraph in 1844,
homing pigeons remained the fastest way to send messages across long distances.
The birds could fly 1,000 miles
and reach 90 miles per hour over shorter distances.
They even played a big part in the world wars.
Thousands of pigeons were used in the First World War alone,
and submarines, minesweepers, and tanks often carried pigeons on board
to send urgent messages back to base.
Their role in the war wasn’t limited to delivering messages, though.
In 1907, Julius Neubronner, a German pharmacist
who used the birds to deliver medicine,
invented the mini pigeon camera
and this camera was used briefly in the war for aerial reconnaissance.
These days, you won’t see many pigeons delivering messages,
but the birds are still used in races across the world.
Our birds are like pedigree dogs and cats.
My father’s got… we have the same family of birds
for the last 40, 50 years.
From, you know, generation to generation, grand, great-grandchildren,
from the pigeons my father had 40, 50 years ago.
Come on, Annie!
Get inside, Annie. Come on.
I got one in here I call Amorie, after my wife.
When I was raising her,
she used to follow me all over the roof.
Come on, girl, get inside.
嘿 姑娘 进去吧
Come on, be a good girl, listen to me, get inside.
快 乖 听话 进去吧！
Well, it was a simple thing to have down the garden.
It was a way of racing, they used to gamble on them.
Whereas if you had horses, took up room,
it was a lot more involved.
You only needed a very small garden, a tiny loft,
and you could raise pigeons.
Anything else, you couldn’t do it.
And I think that’s why it became so popular.
After the war, the sport became a pastime of the working class
and affordable to many.
But in recent years, it’s transformed.
Its rising popularity in China and the huge surge in wealth there
has led people to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in the birds.
And the prize money for winning some of these races can be equally high.
Chinese bidders have spent millions of dollars on pigeons over the last few years,
often buying them in from Belgium.
And Armando’s value rose to $1.4 million only because
of a bidding war between two wealthy Chinese buyers.
Despite reaching this record price,
the bird is likely to never race again,
and instead be used for breeding.
While the number of British pigeon fanciers has fallen
from 60,000 in 1990 to about 21,000 today,
there are now 100,000 fanciers in Beijing.
Taiwan alone has half a million fanciers.
And these numbers are rising.
The sport is even rapidly growing in Iraq,
where a pigeon recently sold for $93,000.
This recent surge in value has caused problems.
In 2018, two men tried to win the prize money
at a pigeon race by smuggling their birds on a bullet train.
And in Taiwan, five members of an organized criminal ring
were arrested for kidnapping valuable racing pigeons and holding them at ransom.
This new, expensive world of pigeon racing across Asia
has changed the reputation of the sport,
and for those with the money to buy the prize winners,
these birds are a status symbol.
But for those who’ve been doing it for years,
it’s not about the money, but the dedication and love of the sport.
And nobody can know what, really tell,
what’s gonna breed a perfect pigeon.
You could pay a fortune for a pigeon.
I think there’s one been sold in China,
the chances are, it may never breed a decent pigeon.
But you could buy two pigeons for 10 pound each,
they hit on, and they could breed you winner after winner.
That’s what makes it so fascinating.
I mean, I had one bird, my hall-of-fame hen.
She flew 1,000 miles in three weeks.
I put her in a 200, a 250, and a 500.
The best race I ever won was the 500-mile race from my hall-of-fame hen.
She’d come home a quarter after nine at night in the dark like a bat.
I’m waiting and waiting and waiting,
我等啊 等啊 等啊
and all I heard was the whisper of the wings,
boom, she hit the coop.
I jumped out of my shoes.
Look, see her pecking me? She’s pecking me.
What’s the matter, girl?
You love daddy, huh.
Racing pigeons aren’t the typical bird