Animal rights activists are looking to put an end to the use of live animals as sports mascots after an encounter between a steer and a bulldog at the Sugar Bowl went viral.
As photographers and other onlookers gathered to take pictures of Georgia's bulldog mascot Uga X before Tuesday night's game, a longhorn steer named "Bevo," who represents the Texas Longhorns, pushed through a metal barricade and rushed toward the dog.
Uga X, an English bulldog wearing a bright red Georgia sweater, was quickly pulled out of harm's way, but Bevo's head and horns appeared to make contact with several people, including a couple of photographers, who scampered out of the way or were knocked down.
There were no reported injuries and Bevo was quickly restrained.
The incident, about an hour before kickoff, was caught on video and quickly became a sensation on social media.
While it appeared to many that Bevo was advancing aggressively toward Uga X, the steer's chief handler disputed that version of events.
Silver Spur alumni association executive director Ricky Brennes, who is in charge of handling the 1,700-pound steer, said Bevo was simply agitated because he wanted to walk and was being restrained.
"He had kind of gone up and bumped the barricade a few times before," Brennes said. "He ran through the gate and into where Uga's area was. It really was more just unfortunate timing and he wasn't aware Georgia's mascot was there. It had nothing to do with the dog."
Texas athletics spokesman John Bianco said "all established safety and security measures were in place for Bevo" at the Sugar Bowl, including two halters, two chains and six handlers to hold him.
In a blog post Wednesday, PETA called for an end to the practice of using live animals as mascots. The post said even if Bevo is as "docile as a lamb" as the steer's handlers noted, things could have been much worse.
"Steers, like all animals, are individuals with unique personalities. It’s quite possible that Bevo was simply scared by the noise, lights, and chaos in the stadium and tried to flee from the confines of his makeshift pen. But that doesn’t change the fact that Uga or any of the humans standing nearby could easily have been trampled and killed," Michelle Kretzer wrote for PETA.
The organization said the live mascots "are held in captivity and often denied the opportunity to fulfill many of their basic instincts." The post said human mascots can better interact with crowds and encouraged fans of schools using live animals to write to their university and encourage using human mascots instead.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story from New Orleans.)