“He just started whaling out, hitting the bull over the head,” a witness, Luis Cruz, 53, said Sunday.

The attack left a gash on the bull’s right horn that was about 6 inches long and 3/4 of an inch wide — and quickly became a mini tourist attraction.

As visitors gathered around the bull Sunday morning, a guide from a passing double-decker tour bus directed attention to the sculpture. “That’s the gash,” he said. “See, that’s the gash.”

Police arrested a Dallas man soon after the vandalism. Tevon Varlack, 42, was charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct and released. He had no comment when reached by phone Sunday.

The incident startled visitors to the Lower Manhattan landmark that has stood on Broadway near Bowling Green since December 1989, when sculptor Arturo Di Modica installed the bull as a work of guerrilla art. At the time, Modica declared the sculpture a Yuletide symbol of the “strength and power of the American people.”

Di Modica, who paid for the original sculpture, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Fernando Luis Alvarez, who manages a gallery that works with Di Modica, said he planned to drive to New York City to inspect the damage.

“I’m a little shaken by this,” he said, adding that “it is sad when people damage these statutes that are so important to society.”

Cruz said he saw a man, who was dressed in a baseball cap, T-shirt and jeans, hanging around near the sculpture for about 10 minutes before moving toward it.

The weapon was made of metal with sharp edges and resembled a makeshift banjo, according to police. It left behind about a dozen deep scratches in addition to the gash. Witnesses said the bull was struck dozens of times, and the sound of the battering was deafening.

Some people scattered. Others seemed to think it was a performance. “While he was hitting the bull, they were trying to take pictures,” Cruz said. “I said, ‘What are you doing? What if this guy turns on you, hits you over the head, kills you?’ They didn’t pay no mind.”

The bull, the symbol of a surging stock market, has been vandalized before. It was splashed with blue paint twice: in 2008 and in 2017. And in 2010, an artist “yarn-bombed” the “Charging Bull” with crochet, which she described as graffiti but with yarn.

On Sunday morning, there was little police presence near the sculpture, and no efforts were made to prevent people from touching or climbing on the bull. More than a hundred tourists lined up to take photographs.

Many did not notice the gash until others pointed it out.

Paola Vallejo, 27, of Mexico City, said she was there to take social-media worthy photos. For her, the real attraction “is the Instagram picture,” she said.

Carlos Swinger, 55, who was visiting from Raleigh, North Carolina, said he was disappointed to see the damage.

“It looks worse than it showed on TV. I didn’t realize that the hole, actually was a hole,” he said. “I thought it was just scratches.”

“You’d think by now,” he said, “we could just all come together and live in peace.”

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