August 30, 1999 12:00 PM

Udder confidence. That’s what Chicago shoe-store owner Peter Hanig had in his plan to turn his town into one big moo-seum. Inspired by a display of fiberglass cows he saw grazing the streets of Zurich last summer, Hanig, 51, persuaded Windy City officials to let him try the same thing at home. At first, local businesses, which he needed to sponsor his $2,000 to $3,000-a-head herd, weren’t about to be corralled. “They said it was a stupid idea,” admits Hanig, whose mother is an artist and whose father once had a farm. But the retailer persevered, and by June 15 his Cows on Parade—301 fiberglass bovines designed by sculptor Beat Seeberger-Quin (who created the Zurich exhibit) and decorated by Chicago artists—stampeded the city. (Yes, Virginia, some cows have horns.)

The creatures, including a likeness of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow (rumored to have started the 1871 Chicago fire), “are loved to death,” says Mike Lash, director of the Chicago Public Art Program. They have also generated mucho moo-la: some $100 million in tourism revenue. After Oct. 31 the cows will be auctioned for charity, not put out to pasture. Says Hanig: “We’re gonna milk this for all it’s worth.”

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