“CowParade is an international public art exhibit that has been featured in major world cities. Fiberglass sculptures of cows are decorated by local artists, and distributed over the city centre, in public places such as train stations, important avenues, and parks. They often feature artwork and designs specific to local culture, as well as city life and other relevant themes. After the exhibition in the city, which lasts many months, the cows are auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity.
There are a few variations of shape, but the three most common shapes of cow were created by Pascal Knapp, a Swiss-born sculptor who was commissioned to create the cows specifically for the CowParade series of events. Pascal Knapp owns the copyrights to the standing, lying and grazing cow shapes used in the CowParade events.
The concept of “cow parade” has its origins in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1998 by artistic director Walter Knapp, it is based on an idea which was realised in the same city for the first time in 1986: Lions as the symbol of Zurich were painted and then on display throughout the city.
The Zürich exhibit 1998 was not called “cow parade” – it was called “Land in Sicht” (roughly “Countryside in view”). The concept was brought to the United States when Chicago businessman Peter Hanig, along with Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg, organized an event in Chicago in 1999. A Swiss company started to explore the idea, CowHolding Parade AG. The American company that explored this idea, CowHolding Parade, was founded in 1999; the Swiss company promptly sued. A bronze casting is on permanent display in Chicago.
The success of this venture inspired many other cities to host similar fundraising projects. The idea has been taken up by other cities which have chosen animals for public art projects with painted fiberglass sculptures ”
This quote is from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CowParade) describing Cows on Parade, which I visited in Chicago in 1999. I remember liking them and thinking they were funny. Here is the website with many of the cows: