the straight dope from wikipedia
The Osborne's bull (in Spanish: Toro de Osborne) is a 14 meters high black silhouetted image of a bull in semi-profile, and is regarded as the unofficial national symbol of Spain. The bull was created in 1956 by Manolo Prieto. Nowadays the conservation of the bulls is handled by the family of Felix Tejada.
The Osborne sherry company erected large images of bulls starting in 1956, in black with the maker's name, as advertising boardings on sites near to major roads throughout Spain. The original image was smaller and in a slightly different design. It got bigger as a law barred publicity within 150 meters of a road.
Later on a new law was passed in 1994, this time prohibiting such advertising, and so the boardings were to be removed. By this time the signs were nationally renowned, so although some campaigners wished them completely removed to fully comply with the intent of the law, public response resulted in the signs being retained, but completely blacked out to remove all reference to the original advertisers. The Court eventually allowed these signs to remain on the grounds that it has become a part of the landscape where it is present and its "aesthetic or cultural significance" thus turning it into a figure of public domain.
There are now only two signs in Spain with the word "Osborne" still written on them. One is at the Jerez de la Frontera airport in the province of Cadiz, and the other is in the nearby town of El Puerto de Santa Maria, where the Osborne headquarters are found.
The image of the bull is now displayed in stickers, keyrings and the like. Also, in sport events where a Spanish team or individual take part, the bull is embedded by supporters in the Flag of Spain in the manner of a coat of arms.
There are 89 examples of the Osborne bull advertisements, usually sited on a low hilltop so as to be clearly silhouetted against the sky. A few of them are also present, in a slightly different design, in México, where it retains its adverstising function..
The bull has become so closely associated to Spain that Catalan nationalists started a campaign against the only one existing in Catalonia which was repeatedly vandalized and eventually not replaced anymore.
- ^ Article in El País commemorating the Bull's 50th anniversary, in Spanish
- ^ Derribado el único toro de Osborne que queda en Cataluña (Spanish)