The $400,000 Racing Pigeon Named after Olympian Usain Bolt

The record-setting price for the most expensive racing pigeon ever sold topped the $328,000 bill for another bird, Blue Prince, in 2012

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© Nigel Roddis / Reuters

The birds may look ordinary, but they fetch record prices in China.

China’s purchasing power has never ceased to amaze the world. The country’s newly rich are on a global shopping spree for luxury goods, but their taste goes beyond designer clothing, upscale properties and expensive artwork. A Chinese businessman recently set a world record by spending $400,000 on a racing pigeon auctioned in Europe, stunning the bird’s Belgian breeder, the auction house Pipa and other pigeon enthusiasts gathered in Brussels, the Associated Press reported.

The star pigeon Bolt, named after Jamaican Olympic superstar sprinter Usain Bolt, was sold to Gao Fuxin, according to its celebrated 66-year-old breeder Leo Heremans, whose entire collection of 530 birds fetched almost $6 million at the auction over the weekend. According to Pipa, about 20 countries were bidding for the birds, but nine of the ten most expensive pigeons went to Chinese Mainland or Taiwanese fanciers, a phenomenon it deemed “remarkable.”

(More: World’s Most Expensive Pigeon Sold for $328,000)

“I was stunned by the prices offered,” Pipa CEO Nikolaas Gyselbrecht told the Associated Press. Gyselbrecht noted that Asian fanciers, not as affected by the economic crisis, have enough cash to pay for their love of this ancient sport.

Gao is certainly not the only fan willing to invest in racing pigeons. In 2012, a Chinese shipping magnate from Wenzhou spent a whopping $328,000 on a racing pigeon. A year earlier, another Chinese businessman bought a Belgian pigeon called Blue Prince for $200,000. The pigeon-purchasing spree signals China’s growing interest in a sport that was once popular across northern Europe. The Asian superpower now has some 300,000 pigeon racing fans, who pour money into this centuries-old tradition that was banned during the cultural revolution because of its capitalistic tendencies.

According to BBC News, Gao will use the one-year-old Bolt for breeding more racing birds, whose prices have more than doubled in China over the last few years, as National Public Radio noted. A pigeon normally lives for about four years. If China’s pigeon love continues, Bolt’s precious bloodline could easily earn Gao even more than what he spent today.

(More: China’s Most Secret Weapon: The Messenger Pigeon)