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story.lead_photo.caption Joe and Joy Gay hang out with Wilson the water buffalo in front of Crossties in downtown Texarkana. (Photo courtesy of Brian Jones)

TEXARKANA — Wilson, a 1,500-pound water buffalo, gets a few double takes when he's out on the town.

He's been spotted strolling down Broad Street with a young girl on his back.

He's been seen at Hopkins Ice House, hanging out near the porch.

And of course he's become a regular at Crossties Entertainment Rail District, which is co-owned by Wilson's owner, Joe Gay.

"He's starting to get some attention downtown," Gay said. "He just loads right up and enjoys going downtown. People have started gathering to see him take his walks."

Wilson, 4, wears a saddle, and Gay's daughter, Joy, 14, has ridden on his back through the down-town streets.

Gay is now planning to bring Wilson to Crossties on Friday evenings and some Saturdays so other children can visit him and maybe even take a ride.

"The big deal about Wilson is how sweet he is. He's saddle broke and just has a really good temperament. He's come in the house before," Gay said.

Eight-year-old Brodie Munn rides 4-year-old Wilson, a water buffalo, on Friday evening along East Broad Street. Wilson is one of maybe a few hundred water buffalo living in the U.S. Brodie said it was just like riding a horse.
Photo by Greg Bischof/Texarkana Gazette.

Wilson's mother also had a good personality and would wear a saddle.

Gay is hoping Wilson's visits bring more attention to downtown Texarkana.

Gay raises water buffalos on his ranch near Texarkana, Arkansas. He sells them to dairy barns because their milk is in high demand for quality mozzarella cheese, he said.

The water buffalo, also called domestic water buffalo or Asian water buffalo, is part of the bovine family and originated in Southeast Asia.

Water buffaloes were imported to the United States in 1974 to be studied at the University of Florida.

Water buffalo milk contains higher levels of solids including fat, calcium and phosphorus. The animals also have one more chromosome than cows do, Gay said.

Most water buffalos are not known for having a pleasant personality but Wilson breaks stereotypes.

"He's just a really sweet boy," Gay said.

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