A 14-metre black silhouette of a bull called Toro de Osborne (The Osborne bull) is a unofficial national symbol of Spain.
Created in 1956 as a billing board (an advert structure) for Veterano, a brandy company, the Osborne bull has since become a symbol for whole of Spain.
This black bull has appeared in numerous flags, have been paraded in many sporting events as unofficial national symbol and of course has been integrated within Spanish landscape, and can be seen on multiple highways, accompanying us on our travels.
The history of the Toro de Osborne dates back to English merchant Thomas Osborne, originally from Exeter, UK, who arrived in Cádiz (Andalucía) to export sherry.
In 1772, young Thomas founded a wine cellar named Osborne. In no time, he established trade links with Sir James Duff and his nephew William Gordon, owners of several wineries in El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz, in Andalucía), where the official headquarters of Osborne Group were established.
Today, 240 years later, it is known as one of the oldest companies in the world (second active in Spain) and is still run as a family business.
Back to the Toro de Osborne design. It was not until 1956 that Osborne Group launched the bull design as a billing board advert to represent Veterano’s Brandy de Jerez (Jerez’s brandy).
The bull was designed by Manolo Prieto, the man who proposed that the company bull was to be made into big billing boards and placed near major roads throughout Spain, to get maximum marketing effect. The original image was smaller and slightly different in design to the current larger image, that was created to comply with a law that prohibited advertising within 150 metres of a road.
It was in 1994 when a law was passed prohibiting all roadside advertising and the bulls were therefore removed. However, by this time, the bulls were nationally renown and campaigners fought to have the bulls restored. The official court eventually allowed these signs to remain on the grounds where they had become a part of the national landscape and hold “aesthetic and cultural significance”. All 91 bulls still remain on locations today.
“Sin miedo y al toro” is a saying that translates to ‘no fear, and to the bull’. It’s more of a command, often referred to another saying of ‘take bull by the horns’, an order to take courage and just go for it – like campaigners did to restore their unofficial national emblem of el Toro de Osborne.
Nowadays the bulls across Spain are conserved by the family of Félix Tejada, most of which do not have the words Veterano or Osborne written on them anymore.
Only two bulls have the ‘Veterano, Osborne’ signs still on them, one at Jerez de la Frontera airport and another in the town of El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz), Osborne Group headquarters.
It is easy to say that the symbol of the fully-black bull is now a world-renown image that most relate to Spain.
This said, the Osborne Group, since 2009, have launched new lines of business in retail of stickers, key rings, clothing, souvenir items in general.
Below there is a map where you can find all the 91 bulls of Osborne marked on a virtual map. Click the map to find the one closest to you and go for a drive to see Spanish landscape at it’s best, with the Toro de Obsborne.