The Bear That Looked Like a Pig
The grizzly bear figured prominently in the early history of California. When Garspar 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 for 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 (see image below).
It isn't any surprise then when a group of American settlers revolved against the rule of Mexico, the flag they raised on June 14, 1846 include the crude depiction of a bear.
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. Unfortunately the original flag was lost in the great fire and earthquake of 1906, but a photograph of it made of it in 1890 confirm's that Todd’s patriotism was better than his drawing skill.
Current California Flag
The current flag of the state of California still contains an image of the grizzly, and it even looks like a bear.