What should I call my house pigeon
Some hate and ridicule them as "rats of the air", others see them as messengers of peace and still others have valued them for thousands of years as reliable messengers of secrets: pigeons. They are also those birds one never thinks to see chicks of. With Joel Verschoot, 63, it's different - the Belgian breeds carrier pigeons. And makes headlines: at the beginning of the week the portal "Pigeon Paradise" (Pipa), which specializes in pigeon breeding, announced that Armando, a carrier pigeon from Verschoot's breeding, achieved the highest price ever offered at an auction - 1.25 million euros. Armando is not so valuable because he has proven himself as a messenger - carrier pigeons used to serve as such, today they are mainly bred for sport, similar to horse and dog sports. Joel Verschoot's Belgian homeland is considered the motherland of the carrier pigeon sport.
SZ: Mr. Verschoot, do you know Lewis Hamilton?
Joel Verschoot: The Formula 1 driver?
Exactly. The German media reported that you had raised the "Lewis Hamilton of the pigeons".
My armando? Sorry, I've never heard that comparison. Then you could also call Hamilton the "Armando of Formula 1" because he flies over the racetracks like the fastest pigeon in Belgium through the air.
Tell us a little bit about your record-breaking bird, what makes it so special and expensive?
Armando is not only fast, he is also very smart. He is a totally reliable animal and has won various long and short distance competitions, which is what makes him so valuable. In 2018 he was the most successful bird in Belgium. Since I started breeding pigeons he is the best pigeon I have ever seen.
And you saw a lot of pigeons?
Oh yeah. Back then, as a child, I started helping my father with his breeding. When he died, I took it over. I've been with pigeons all my life. I currently have about 300 of them here.
It is said that you can tell them all apart and call them by name.
Of course. I train with them twice a day and you get to know them pretty well. It's also something that makes a good breeder: the more time you spend with the animals, the more you care for them, the better they develop. In addition, there is a balanced diet. I don't do anything out of the ordinary, I buy normal feed in the supermarket, but I make sure that the pigeons eat more fat, for example before long-distance competitions, because they are then more persistent. By the way, Armando is particularly fond of corn.
Have you had sales in this dimension before?
The price for Armando beats everything that has come before. So far, the record price has been a third of what is now being paid for Armando. I've already had pigeons that went for 200,000 euros, for Armando I had hoped very optimistically for 500,000 euros - that it would then be 1.25 million, of course, surprised us enormously.
How did you take the news?
She came on Sunday. I called my four sons, they came over immediately and we partied a bit. I went to bed at five in the morning.
Do you already know what you will do with all that money?
We haven't received it yet. Armando is still with us, I think he will be picked up and brought to China by the end of the week, the bill should then be paid within the next three weeks. What we will do with it then - I have no idea yet, to be honest. Only one thing is certain: I will keep both feet on the ground.
The same goes for Armando by and large, he should no longer fly competitions in China, but only breed offspring.
Exactly, he's got a pretty comfortable new life ahead of him now.
Isn't that an awful waste of talent like that?
Who says they might not be gifted at breeding too? Armando is now five years old, and its new owner can use it for another ten years. If he does this properly, his investment can be worthwhile.
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