With the boom of modern technology, it's hard to believe that for a century, San Francisco was the commercial center of the California dairy industry.
The Spanish at the Presidio and Mission Dolores were the first to bring cattle to the San Francisco Peninsula in 1776. Cattle free-ranged on the Portrero Nuevo (or, New Pasture, today's Portrero Hill), and likely west of Bernal Heights into Glen Canyon. Following the Gold Rush, milk became "liquid gold" and it was not uncommon for milkmen like Charles Gough to quickly step into a big pile of money. By 1875, there were about 150 milk dealers in San Francisco, and in 1888, as many as 8,000 cows grazed and ruminated their way about the City and County.
Cow Hollow (today's Union Street district) is remembered for having some of the first dairies to appear in the new City beginning in 1861. It was generally believed that dairies did not appear in Glen Canyon until 1891 when poor sanitation practices drove Cow Hollow dairymen from the growing residential neighborhood. Yet, according to a map by V. Wackenreuder in the David Rumsey Map Collection and confirmed by the San Francisco City Directory of 1861 and 1862/1863, four forgotten "milk ranches" owned by George Ulshofer, Charles Clark, John Gardiner, and Henry Wilson were located in Glen Canyon and today's Glen Park at the same time as the first in Cow Hollow.
These ranchers would eventually leave the canyon but would be replaced by others. In the early 20th century, one could find Good Brothers Dairy in Glen Canyon and as late as the 1930s, one could see the resident bovine of Christopher Dairy grazing along O'Shaughnessy Boulevard. The owner, George Christopher, would later become Mayor of San Francisco and would be responsible for moving Giants baseball from New York City. A fellow Republican, Ronald Reagan, claimed milk from the Christopher Dairy was his "favorite milk." Christopher Dairy would be purchased by Berkeley Farms in 1970.
Cows have a long history in Glen Canyon and that's why the sign at the entrance to Glen Canyon is graced with a holstein. You can read more in "Cows in the City" at http://www.trampsofsanfrancisco.com/cows-san-francisco/