The Bear That Looked Like a Pig

Bear Statue at Mission San Luis Obispo

Bear Statue at Mission San Luis Obispo


Behind the grizzly bear featured on the flag raised when California was declared a Republic

The grizzly bear figured prominently in the early history of California. When Gaspar de Portola’s famished troops made their way back along the coast to San Diego in December 1769 they killed a bear in order to survive. In the early days of the missions, bear hunts were often the primary source of meat. Capturing one of these ferocious beasts alive was the supreme challenge for Californios.

Mission San Luis Obispo has a bear fountain in honor of the unique role this brave and dangerous beast played.

It isn't any surprise then when a group of American settlers revolved against the rule of Mexico, on June 14, 1846, the flag they raised featured a bear, and the event became known as the Bear Flag Revolt. 

The original flag was painted on a piece of brown cotton by a man named William Todd.

As soon as the flag was hoisted, though, the assembled crowd were heard to shout 'Coche', the common name for a pig.

 

Bear Statue at Mission San Luis Obispo
Bear Statue at Mission San Luis Obispo

 

Contemporary rendition of Bear Flag
Contemporary rendition of Bear Flag

 

Bear Statue at Mission San Luis Obispo
Bear Statue at Mission San Luis Obispo

 

Original Bear Flag
Original Bear Flag

 

Raising the Bear Flag, after a drawing by Alexander Harmer, colorized © 2014 Pentacle Press LLC.
Raising the Bear Flag, after a drawing by Alexander Harmer, colorized © 2014 Pentacle Press LLC.