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Raising Belgian racing pigeons‎, a national pastime

Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP

A man holds a bowl with baby pigeons at Pigeon Paradise in Knesselare, Belgium on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP

A pigeon looks down from it's perch at Pigeon Paradise in Knesselare, Belgium.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP

Pigeons are seen in their coop at Loft Pros Roosen in Kermt, Belgium. Wealthy Chinese buyers helped push the sale of the 218-bird colony of Pros Roosen to a world record high of euro 1.368 million ($1.8 million) last weekend.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP

Pigeons fly inside their coop at Pigeon Paradise in Knesselare, Belgium.

Pigeons are often referred to as land rats, here in New York City but Belgian racing pigeons are prized and sold for thousands of dollars. According to the Associated Press, Belgians have long excelled at pigeon breeding and generations of knowledge have taught fanciers how to build the best bloodlines with top racers. In the 1950s, they had over 250,000 official members in the Royal Pigeon Federation. Just about everyone had someone in the family with a loft -  spending weekends in blue overalls tending a few dozen pigeons in the coop. Read more about Pigeon racing.