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Toro Stories Last Updated: Aug 20th, 2006 - 06:20:08

You can never have enough Bull
By Ric Polansky
May 13, 2006, 10:26

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                                                                   By Ric Polansky ©



No journey through Spain´s panoramic countryside is ever boring. Less so with the companionship of an omnipotent overseer and guide. He is  likely to pop up on a hill around the next twisting bend. For the frequent traveller, be he first time tourist or long time resident, the famed silhouette is like a beacon of light conveying an indomitable and resolute assurance. No matter how prolonged the journey, you have a friend and constant chaperon. In fact, you couldn’t escape him even if you wanted to because he posts watch in symbolic vigil on every motorway and major hi-way throughout the nation. That same Iberian Peninsula, if you opened the entire map and stretched it wide and then nailed it on a wall, would appear to have the same configuration of himself (the hide of a toro).


If you are prosperous enough to be able to be able to criss-cross that same pelt you will notice him, vigilant, steadfast and sturdy against the winds of time as if supervising your journey.  A perfect symbol for Spain …… wild, untameable, bestial yet somehow conveying a romantic allure. El Toro is just that presence.


Spain’s most famous logo came to life back in 1956 when the Osborne Company, makers of brandy and sherries, were looking for a specific anagram to advertise their brandy, Veterano. Their advertising  agency selected the most popular designer of the time, Manuel Prieto, who was legendary for his work drafting coin and stamp designs for the government. Ironically, Señor Prieto was from the same town as the company itself, El Puerto de Santa Maria—so the match was near perfect to begin with.


Prieto’s simple silhouette depiction of a toro bravo was instantly accepted by the company. Originally made out of wood and just four meters high the first prototypes were erected in November 1957. The public took to the advertising ploy with amused interest. Between the years 1962 and 1964 more than 500 toros were installed throughout Spain. Cataluña had more than 100 and the Isle of Mallorca 40.


With the growing popularity of the logo the company decided to make it bigger and increased the size up to seven meters. Popularity increased too and naturally the ad. agency came up with another not so original idea of making the signs even bigger, out of metal plate of  3 mm. thick and weighing up to 4,000 pounds.  In the end the last ones made had more than 6 cubic meters of poured concrete and four major metal units supporting their weight of more than 50,000 kilos. Osborne, for its work, became the talk of all of Spain, and the international marketing world. Buyers instantaneously recognised their brandy their toro and purchases rose as rapidly as the toros multiplied and invaded the land. Osborne’s logo became the “Spanish symbol” throughout the hide of the country and internationally too. Runaway commercialism cleverly done and admired by the new tourist boom flourishing in that era. Every itinerant traveller throughout the country was captured by El Toro-- spirited imagination.


Trouble started with Spain’s proposed entry into the EEC back in 1988. New laws had to be adapted, passed and conform to the rest of Europe. The Spanish parliament willingly obliged. On July 30th of that same year new legislature came into being that stated no signs could be put near or visible to main public roads. No one took it seriously, least of all the average Spaniard nor the mega-conglomerate Osborne. But, shortly thereafter the company was fined a token punishment of only 1million and 1 Peseta. Naturally nothing was done about the signs. The sprouts in Brussels insisted the toros vacate the hillsides. The case made the Spanish Consejo de Ministros in February, 1994. Somebody else didn’t like El Toro. Even non-drinking Spaniard’s were insulted but the European law-makers refused to budge. Rumours were rampant that the Spanish Supreme Court would have to intervene for a decision.


Competitors disliked the famed toro—it had become a symbol of the nation. Expletives and name-calling were more rampant than “a corrida of bulls” (a running of bulls). Everyone had an opinion about the bull. The  toro became front page news in all of Europe. Everyone had a comment, a criticism, an judgment that was sacrosanct. Thousands of letters were scribbled to the Spanish government in defense of the animal. It seemed that everyone that lived by the roads wanted their companion pardoned. No decent Spaniard was going to allow some miserable foreign politician to use the bureaucratic sword.


Protests were mounted. Men and women alike marched for the bull.  Radio station Canal COPE played constant Pase Dobles to alert the populace. In Santa Maria, home of El Toro the entire populace signed the book of protest sent to the government. The first signature on the petition was that of Spain’s Poet Laureate, Raphael Alberti. In open defiance autonomous Town Halls throughout Andalucia petitioned Osborne for the right to put up their own TORO at their own expense. The image of El Toro had grazed eternally upon the collective consciousness of the nation. The battle raged. Tempers flared.


In the north the farsighted Basque’s passed a motion stating under no circumstances would they touch El Toro because it broke their regional laws. Soon to follow were the near sighted Galicianos and before too long both major warring political parties, the Partido Popular (Conservatives)  and PSOE (socialist) decided to vote to recognise El Toro de Osborne as belonging to the Cultural and Artistic Patrimony of the nation. Spain kept their bull.  The Toro was pardoned.


Right now there are 100 toros in Spain and the government says, “no more”. Who knows, maybe that too will change. I know quite a few  bullfight aficionados who have had their picture taken in front of each and every toro. You can obtain maps of where each bull is located by surfing the web on /el Toro.


Years ago the NEW YORK TIMES had the silhouette of the famed Osborne Toro on their special supplement about Spain. The original drawings now repose and pose again in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Even other agencies like Neckermann’s Travel from Germany have adopted El Toro as their anagram. The government even picked up on El Toro’s popularity and made it the portada (cover) for their book on Information and Turismo “España Eterna” (Eternal Spain). The logo itself having become the most famed advertising mark in all of Spain.


The bull lives and continues to thrive in this rich romantic land of wonderment and reverence for the simple things in life.

Yes, Paco, your bull we will have to live with forever! 



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