Harold Cole was born on a livestock and grain farm near Marshall, Wisconsin. He received his baccalaureate degree in 1920 from the University of Wisconsin, a Masters degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1925, and a PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1928. Harold joined the UC Davis faculty in 1928, retired in 1964, and was active as an emeritus in teaching and research in the Department of Animal Husbandry until his death in 1978.
He initiated and taught Animal Husbandry 110, "Physiology of Domestic Animals", and was active as a leader in the Animal Physiology Graduate Group where he was a major professor for many years with many outstanding PhD students. Harold undertook teaching AH 7, "Introduction to Animal Husbandry", because of his belief that beginning courses should be taught by department chairmen. In order to inject more science into the course, he edited the text, Introduction to Livestock Production including Dairy and Poultry in 1962.
Professor Cole's research was published continuously from 1930 until 1978. His first important work, with the late George H. Hart, led to the discovery of Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG), used to superovulate females of many species. Gonadotropins, antigonadotropins, and progonadotropins were the subject of his research throughout most of his career. Other important contributions were made in the studies of bloat and milk fever in cattle. For his contributions in research, he was named Faculty Research Lecturer by his colleagues in 1944. The American Society of Animal Science twice honored him: in 1952 with the "Morrison Award", and in 1963 the ASAS award in Animal Physiology and Endocrinology.
Possibly the most outstanding contibution of Harold Cole came from service as Chairman of the Animal Husbandry Department 1951 to 1960. His high standards and leadership were given to many young faculty members employed following World War II, enhancing the academic performance and reputation of the department.
When Harold retired in 1964, he was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Laws by the University of California. In 1969 the Harold H. Cole Facility for the Study of Biology of Large Animals was built and named.