Spain’s (unofficial) national symbol is 50!

It used to be the trademark of the popular Spanish sherry company “Osborne”. A random marketing whim 50-years ago made the company erect about 90 14-meter high metallic silhouettes of a bull on all major highways across Spain; now they resemble the country. What a lucky fluke for Osborne, I doubt their marketing prowess foresaw that.

Around 1988, Spain introduced a law where there couldn’t be any publicity on the highways. Osborne got rid of their branding on the bull so they could still stand. Obviously, campaigners protested, but apparently public demand to keep the silhouette is what saved Osborne’s metallic structures, and it is still referred to as the “El Toro De Osborne” (The Osborne Bull).

Other than pointing it out to grandchildren on road-trips, the Spaniards I spoke to about this bull had neutral sentiments. “They chose a bull to represent their brand, then blew it up and put it all around the country,” is what they said; far from an ingenious plan I suppose.

In Catalunya, groups have protested: “we don’t want Spanish symbols in our territory”, and post many attempts to knock down the bulls; now there are none in that region.

Other than Catalunya, Cantabria and Murcia are the other two provinces without the bull; Alicante and Cádiz have the most. It’s the same bull you see on T-shirts, key-chains, stickers, posters and Spanish flags that you can buy in souvenir shops.

In celebration of the bull’s 50-years of existence, an art competition has been launched in the country where you can submit your artistic representations of the bull to win theme park tickets valid for 2008 (yaay?), Sony PlayStation 3, or a 100cc Motorcycle.