Pigeon breeder takes pride in 300-Strong Flock - GulfToday

Pigeon breeder takes pride in 300-Strong Flock

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Pigeon-enthusiast Joel Verschoot poses at the "Verschoot pigeons Loft " AFP

Belgian pigeon breeder Joel Verschoot could probably have settled down to a comfortable retirement in March after he sold the world's most expensive racer.

Armando the pigeon won worldwide headlines and netted Verschoot 1.25-million euros ($1.4-million) when he won over Chinese buyers in an online auction.

Now the famous bird toils for a Beijing public works magnate, fathering what his new owner must hope will be a new generation of feathered champions.

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Racing pigeons at the "Verschoot pegeons Loft" in Ingelmunster, Belgium. AFP

But 64-year-old retired abattoir worker Verschoot is not done yet. He still consecrates up to 10 hours a day tending for and racing his charges.

Before Armando set the online pigeon auction world alight earlier this year, the Flemish fancier's most expensive protegee was 400,000-euro Nadine.

When Armando's sale came up, two Chinese buyers went head to head, raising each other by 100,000 euros a time until one was forced to retire from the field.

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Pigeon-enthusiast Joël Verschoot poses at the "Verschoot pigeons Loft." AFP

"We never thought it could go up like that," he said, recalling how his then 50-year-old father introduced him to pigeon fancying at a young age.

Joel was the only one of the elder Verschoot's nine children to take an interest in training his father's 50-strong racing flock.

Now he has 300 birds of his own, and fame in the sport.

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Racing pigeon at the "Verschoot pigeon Loft" in Ingelmunster, Belgium. AFP

Best in Europe

As a trainer, he explains, his speciality was keeping apart male and female pairs for two weeks before the day-long race.

Armando was not merely randy, however, he was also "crafty", his trainer explains: expert at dodging power cables and airborne predators.

He came second in a race in Limoges, France in 2017 and 2018, and won last year's meet at nearby Angouleme.

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Pigeon-enthusiast Joël Verschoot inspects a racing pigeon. AFP 

Some purists are less excited by the arrival of big money deals in their traditional sport.

Maybe Belgium's pigeon racing scene has room for a variety of approaches, after all between 18,000 and 20,000 Belgians are licensed breeders.

But Ancia is pessimistic. "You have to give up a lot of your time, and it's rare that a breeder is followed into the hobby by his wife or kids," he said.

Agence France-Presse