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Visitors to Golden Gate Park are often astounded to stumble upon a herd of American bison browsing in a meadow in the park’s western end, but these huge, shaggy Great Plains denizens have been a beloved institution since 1892. Before San Francisco opened its first zoo in the 1930s, a menagerie of creatures were kept in Golden Gate Park, including:
- Bison (more commonly known as buffalo)
An emblem of the American west, bison had been driven nearly to extinction by the time Golden Gate Park’s herd was established. The herd’s first home was in the park’s eastern end, near where the Music Concourse now stands, but in 1899 they were moved to the meadow where you see them today, just west of Spreckels Lake along John F. Kennedy Drive. The small herd that remains is cared for by staff from the San Francisco Zoo, while Recreation and Parks Department gardeners maintain the enclosure.