…we are looking at one of the most iconic symbols of Spain, the Osborne bull.

Osborne Bull

If you have been in Spain on holiday, you almost certainly have seen one of these famous silhouettes, standing proudly on hillsides and near major roads.  There are 90 Osborne bullsspread around the roads in Spain, 21 of them in Andalucia and 10 of these are in the Cadíz province, where the Osborne company was founded.

These bulls are not all the same. And they are verybig.   The two in the municipality of Alcala de la Gazules in Andalucia, on the aptly names ‘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 feet 2m by 1m in plan and a depth of at least 2m.  The sheeting from which they are made is 3mm galvanised steel, 2m by 1m. They are works of engineering as much as they are adverts!

In 1994, there was a huge outcry when the National Traffic Department, with the admirable intention of reducing accidents, ordered that the bulls be taken down. The response was especially strong in Andalucia, where the regional government promptly declared them part of Andalucian Heritage. Subsequently, the Spanish courts recognised the bull as a genuine cultural symbol and it was allowed to 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 Sant Maria.

Even though the Osborne Bull is a really just an advert, its cultural status as a symbol of all things Spanish is widely accepted.  So much so, it has created a backlash in some parts of Spain. In Catalyuna, attempts have been made to rip down the bull, and in the Basque country some have raised a Basque sheep instead. And of course, the bulls are subject to graffiti in support of various protests from time to time.  But, despite the weather, the changing law and politics, the bulls stand tall as a symbol of the wonderful country that is Spain.

Juan Piedra