Victory for Spain's lusty roadside bulls

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Spain's Supreme Court has finally granted a definitive reprieve for the Osborne bulls - those vast steel Spanish brandy adverts that bestride the country and have become one of its most potent images.

The announcement brings to a happy conclusion a nine-year campaign to defend an icon of almost mythical significance. The bulls "have superseded their original function as a commercial trademark, to become an integral and decorative part of the national landscape", said the Supreme Court.

Osborne blacked out its name and product from the bulls' flanks in 1989 when a Motorways Law killed off roadside advertising, but the po-faced socialist transport minister tossed the concession aside and said the bulls themselves must go.

The government then trampled underfoot a massive "save the bulls" campaign and fined the company pounds 5,000 in 1994 for leaving the bulls still standing. But the final decision was left to the Supreme Court.

Numerous artists out of solidarity collaborated in a lavish celebratory coffee-table book, A Big Black Bull; an American photographer crisscrossed the country for three years snapping the remaining 97 of the original 500 examples of the world's best-known taurean image, and an exhibition wowed Madrid's smart Fine Arts Circle.

The bull-shaped steel hoardings enjoy a reputation for conferring virile powers, and are legendary nocturnal rendezvous for young couples who lie in the moonlit shadows of the vast, er, silhouette.

Such an amorous encounter was immortalised in Bigas Luna's hit film Jamon Jamon.