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Couple brings 1,600-pound steer to a Texas Petco

Taken from Oliver the African Watusi Facebook page.

Are all leashed animals really welcome at Petco? It was a question raised by a Texas couple and their pet, Oliver, a 1,600-pound Ankole-Watusi steer. So, they figured it was time to get an answer.

"We decided to take a chance and call Petco's bluff on the 'ALL LEASHED PETS ARE WELCOME' policy," Vincent Browning, one of Oliver's owners, wrote in a Facebook post.

With Browning holding the steer's leash, Oliver, known as "the African Watusi," slowly shuffled his way through a Petco parking lot earlier this week. During his minute-long trek from the parking lot to the store on Monday, a young child awed in amazement of the creature with arresting horns.

"Hey, guys, you see the longhorn?" the child said of the creature. The child added, "He's taking him to the Petco!"

As Oliver tilted his wide set of horns - measuring nine and a half feet from tip to tip - to the side to avoid hitting the automatic sliding doors, Browning kept repeating, "Easy, easy!" When he made it through the second series of doors, the steer was greeted with pure joy from the patrons and employees, including smiles, laughter and a welcome worthy of any other customer or animal of the pet store retailer: "Welcome to South Texas Petco."

"They welcomed Oliver the African Watusi with open arms," Browning wrote.

Oliver's field trip to Petco has since gone viral this week, with the Facebook video of his entrance garnering more than 1 million views as of early Friday morning. Many on social media are celebrating the animal's beauty in a setting in which an Ankole-Watusi, regarded as the "cattle of kings" for its majestic horns, very rarely, if ever, finds itself.

The steer's path to Petco was easier than expected. Stopping at Petco on the way back from an event with Oliver, a fully trained steer who's available for rodeos and events, Shelly Lumpkin, Browning's fiancee, saw an employee she knew, USA Today reported. The couple are regulars at the Atascocita store, about 25 miles north of Houston, and had previously broached the idea of bringing Oliver in for a visit, according to the Houston Chronicle. Browning, a former world champion bull rider, has raised Oliver since he was 6 months old, traveling with him throughout the South to rodeos and events, according to the Chronicle. But Petco was one place he had yet to visit.

"I said we'd love to meet him and that he could come in any time, as long as he's domesticated and on a leash," Chrystal Armour, an employee at the store, recalled to the Chronicle.

When Lumpkin asked the employee if Oliver could come say hi, the store was ready for the steer. The answer left Lumpkin a little surprised.

"I said, 'Are you serious?' " she said to the Chronicle. "She talked to her manager and her manager said, 'Yeah, bring him in as long as you clean up the mess.' "

Upon entrance, customers and employees marveled at the gentle, plodding steer before approaching Oliver to pet him and take pictures.

"People couldn't believe it," Lumpkin told USA Today. "The whole staff there was really nice about it and excited."

The visit to the Houston-area store got the attention of Petco chief executive Ron Coughlin, who said he wished he could have been there.

"So proud [and a little jealous] of our Atascocita team for keeping @Petco's word when we say 'ALL leashed #pets are welcome,'" Coughlin tweeted. "Meeting Oliver, the African Watusi, looks like an incredible experience!"

Oliver was already something of a social-media star before he popped up at Petco. His Facebook page, which has more than 40,000 followers as of early Friday, chronicles Oliver's everyday life, such as hanging out with mascots, getting pedicures and napping with his pig friend, Dolly.

On Facebook, users took note of how conscious Oliver is of his size when walking into the store.

"That amazes me that he tilts his head to get his horns in the door," one user wrote.

"I can't believe he fit through the door!" another person remarked.

"Coming through the front door he was SO careful," someone observed. "What a good boy."

This article was written by Timothy Bella, a reporter for The Washington Post.

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