A racing pigeon, known as the 'Lewis Hamilton of pigeons', was sold for a record €1.25m (NZ$2.1m) in an online auction.

Joël Verschoot sold his bird, Armando, for the record-breaking sum to two Chinese bird racing enthusiasts, smashing the previous record by €852,000 (NZ$1,409,716).

Although the 63-year-old said he knew Armando was born a champion, he said he was shocked when the bids began to skyrocket towards the end of the two-week long auction.

During the final hour, one bidder reportedly upped their offer by €100,000 (NZ$165,459), before a second bidder starting placing bids of €2,000 (NZ$3,309).

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"The two Chinese had told me in advance that they absolutely wanted Armando," Verschoot, a retired abattoir manager, told the Guardian. "But I didn't see this coming.

"This is a crowning glory of all those years in the pigeon sport. The icing on the cake."

When asked what he planned to do with the money though, Verschoot told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper he had "Nothing special" in mind just yet.

Verschoot spends up to 12 hours a day working with his pigeons, who are said to find challenging flying weather a "piece of cake".

And while all of Verschoot's birds are claimed "killers" when racing, five-year-old Armando is said to have a particularly outstanding sense of direction and wing strength.

The pigeon industry has boomed in recent years thanks to an elite group of half a dozen Chinese racers.

The races, however, are becoming increasingly competitive with two professional pigeon racers sentenced to three years behind bars for cheating in a 750km race.