All it takes is a drive across Spain to see the legendary brandy advertisement that has become a symbol of Spanish culture both here at home and abroad.
The Osborne Bull is the black silhouette of bull that stands on hilltops and along the roadside in many – but not all – parts of Spain. It began as nothing more than an advertisement in 1956 when the Osborne Group set out to promote 'Veteran' brandy. An Andalucian artist by the name of Manolo Prieto suggested the bull and thus set a legend in motion.
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Prieto, (Cádiz 1912 - 1991), was actually quite a prolific artist. He will probably always be most remembered though, for his roadside monuments to Spanish brandy. According to some reports, the bull was a source of disappointment to Manolo who had produced so many other fine works and nobody seemed to care about these.
The Osborne Bulls were constructed in the workshops of brothers José and Féliz Tejada Prieto. However they left Prieto’s hands and went on to take on a life all its own. It started out as a wooden figure, quickly transformed into metal in order to withstand weather conditions. Later it had to meet even tougher regulations; such as not being within 150m of a road, which, by 1962, brought it to its full height and added its current support structure.
The big controversy began when the national Traffic Department, intent on reducing accidents by wiping away any possibly roadside distraction, ordered that the bull be taken down in 1994. There was public outcry across many parts of Spain, especially Andalucia, where the regional government promptly declared it part of Andalucian Heritage. (BIC 01110350009) In the years that followed, the Osborne Bull would be recognised by Spanish courts as a genuine cultural symbol and it would remain along roadsides in many areas, but as pure black silhouettes. There are only two examples with the word 'Osborne' remaining, one at Jerez de la Frontera airport, and the other near Puerto de Santa Maria. The artistic shape is often said to be a public domain image, having been reproduced on countless Tshirts, mugs and stickers. All but one court ruling have confirmed it as a trade mark owned by Osborne.
There are 21 bulls in Andalucia erected between 1957 and 1979. They are not all the same. The two in the municipality of Alcala de la Gazules on the aptly named 'Ruta del Toro' are the 6.5m 'Toro Grande' type weighing two tonnes. The other 19 in Andalucia are of the 13.13m 'Toro Gigante' type weighing four tonnes. Each of these has mass concrete foundations 2m by 1m in plan and a depth of at least 2m, The sheeting is 3mm galvanised steel 2m by 1m.
Even though the Osborne Bull really is a commercial figure, it’s cultural status as a symbol of all things Spanish is so widely accepted as to create a backlash in some parts of Spain with Catalan’s ripping down any attempt to raise an Osborne Bull and some Basque’s raising a Basque sheep instead.
In spite of all the controversy, and the ocasional repaintings in support of one protest or another, the bull will most certainly go on.
Where to see the Osborne Bulls in Andalucia
Benahadux - N-340a - (36.93626,-2.462072)
Los Barrios - A381 Km 85 - (36.175349,-5.48128)
Alcalá de los Gazules - N-440 PK 53 - (36.457223,-5.741862)
Alcalá de los Gazules - N-440 PK 48 - (36.463298,-5.782935)
Puerto de Santa María - Matajaca - A-4 - (36.644007,-6.178284)
Puerto de Santa María - Cuesta de la Trocha-Aquapark - N-IV - (36.63404,-6.195447)
Puerto de Santa María - Rotonda de los Toros (not official)
Jerez de la Frontera - Airport Apron (not official)
Jerez de la Frontera - El Cuadrejón - N-IV - (36.783923,-6.038803)
Véjer de la Frontera/Conil - N-340 - (36.283523,-6.049312)
Tarifa/Facinas - N-340 Km 68 - (36.134599,-5.71085)
Cuesta del Espino
Guéjar-Sierra - A-395 - (37.140894,-3.456665)
Albolote/Pantano de Cubillas - N-323 - (37.299957,-3.662332)
Santa Elena - A-4 - (38.321327,-3.555395)
Torre del Mar/Vélez-Málaga/Almayate - N-340,2 - (36.732369,-4.119828)
Casabermeja - A-45 Km 123,5 - (36.898602,-4.434401)
Las Cabezas de San Juan - N-IV - (36.966633,-5.8772)
Lora de Estepa - A-4, E-5 N-334 - (37.273874,-4.801468)
Castillo de las Guardas - N-433 - (37.749815,-6.369362)
Castilleja del Campo - A-472 - (37.392935,-6.317724)
Huévar - A-49 - (37.358358,-6.301706)
Here is a link to Google maps showing the locations