Mark Kitchenbrand and his business partner Samuel Mbiza shelled out R5 million to buy the world’s most expensive racing pigeon‚ Golden Prince.
In three properties in Alberton in Gauteng‚ Kitchenbrand has breeding and racing lofts‚ where he keeps around 1‚000 pigeons.
When TimesLIVE visited Kitchenbrand at his home‚ he was on the phone for an hour‚ talking enthusiastically to an Australian radio station‚ Pigeon Radio‚ about his latest acquisition.
Kitchenbrand describes himself as an engineer and an investor in businesses. He also owns a guest house in the same neighbourhood.
Kitchenbrand has won hundreds of races in South Africa‚ culminating in the biggest cheque of his career for $200‚000 when his pigeon Victor won the Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race in 2011. He has also won races in Germany and the Netherlands.
Mark Kitchenbrand poses with one of his many trophies. Photo: Abigail Javier, TMG Digital
Pigeons that participate in the Million Dollar Race get sold on auction after the race.
Racing pigeons is different from other races‚ in that the pigeons race home from a predetermined distance away.
The racing season that Kitchenbrand participates in consists of 20 weeks with 37 races in total. There are three racing distances: short at 286 to 400km‚ middle at 401km to 600km and long distance racing at 600km and above.
The birds get tagged when they reach home and points are awarded for birds that arrive quickly.
Kitchenbrand said his interest in investing in winning pigeons began around 2005‚ when he realised that winners of the Million Dollar Challenge were bought by overseas pigeon fanciers.
“All the winning birds were bought by the Chinese. We never had access to ‘winning genetics’.”
This changed in 2008 when he bought Birdy‚ who won that year’s Million Dollar Challenge‚ for R800‚000‚ when the previous record for a pigeon at the time was R300‚000.
Mark Kitchenbrand has breeding and racing lofts in three properties where he keeps around 1‚000 pigeons. Photo: Abigail Javier, TMG Digital
“I bought the best and was breeding the best with the best‚” Kitchenbrand said.
Kitchenbrand sold Birdy at an auction in Belgium for R1.2 million in 2015.
On the purchase of Golden Prince at an auction in Belgium last week‚ Kitchenbrand said he and Mbiza also bought two exceptional hens‚ which will mate with Golden Prince for the rest of his life.
“The plan is to have 20 babies a year. The first four we will bring to South Africa. We will mate the four with the Birdy and Victor lines. “Of the remaining 16‚ we will sell four or five by next February. Within a year-and-a-half and two years‚ we will recover our output‚” said Kitchenbrand.
He said Golden Prince was a four-year-old champion racer who has won long distance races in Belgium.
The racing season that Mark Kitchenbrand participates in consists of 20 weeks with 37 races in total. Photo: Abigail Javier, TMG Digital
“I handled him. He has an exceptional wing. He has an extremely strong back and a muscular structure. He handles like a champion. ”
“He was a superstar in Belgium. His grandfather was also a super breeder and super racer‚” Kitchenbrand said.
Kitchenbrand sells pigeons with unproven bloodlines for between R750 and R1‚000‚ but there is a high price to be paid for Victor and Birdy lines.
“We charged R100‚000 for offspring from Birdy.”
Kitchenbrand described Mbiza as a businessman who has been racing for 10 years and who started buying pigeons from him years ago‚ his interest deepening into a serious investment. “Two years ago‚ he started investing in Birdy bloodlines. We built him a pigeon loft at home.”
Explaining his passion for these birds‚ Kitchenbrand referenced the Bible’s stories of doves. “I feel the pigeon is God’s favourite animal.”