Behind the badge: what the bull means to Torino and its proud heritage

Behind the badge: what the bull means to Torino and its proud heritage

Behind The Badge is a series by COPA90 exploring football’s unique crests. These Football Times teamed up with their COPA Collective partners to tell the story behind each one.


There’s something aesthetically pleasing about Torino’s club crest. I don’t know whether it’s the colour scheme or the smooth edges of the shield, but it just looks right. No matter how hard you try, your attention is always eventually drawn to the rather imperious bull smacked bang in the middle, reeling on its hind legs, poised for battle. While that bull has always featured, it hasn’t always been that prominent. The club’s rich history has led previous designers down other paths.

Football first landed in Turin at the end of the 19th century and, like elsewhere in northern Italy, it was delivered by foreigners. Swiss entrepreneur Alfred Dick was the face of the foundation of Foot-ball Club Torino in 1906, leading a group of Juventus figures who wanted to form their own club.

They partnered up with a couple of merged clubs – Internazionale Torino and FC Torinense – within the Piedmont capital and set about overhauling Juve. The team’s initial orange and black colours, adopted from Internazionale Torino and Torinense’s previous kits, were discarded after being seen to be too similar to those of the Habsburgs – the Austrian royal house and enemy of Italy’s House of Savoy.

 

As a result, a darker red was opted for, but its origins are shrouded in mystery. Some say it’s derived from the House of Savoy’s Duke of Abruzzi who, legend has it, adopted a blood-stained handkerchief to honour the killed messenger who brought the news of victory in the liberation of Turin from the French in the 18th century.

Others point to Alfred Dick for its likeness to Servette’s colours, the Swiss team he supported back home. Perhaps the best version is that the darker red came as a result of a laundry mistake, mixing the colours red and black in the wash. The club’s first kits didn’t feature a badge, however, but instead the Italian flag in the shape of a shield.

It was with this flag on their chest that they officially won their first Scudetto in 1928, having had the title stripped off them the year before. Almost a decade later, Torino became the first champions of the Coppa Italia as we know it today, defeating Alessandria 5-1 in the final, still with those Italian shields on their kits.

Torino were forced to ditch their anglicised name in favour of the Italian ‘Associazione Calcio Torino’ by order of the fascist regime. These ACT initials appear in the first recognised crest in the club’s history alongside, of course, the famous bull, although a bit smaller in size and capped with a crown.

 

The bull is the most striking symbol of the city of Turin. It’s even in the city’s name: Torino is translated as ‘Little Bull’ in Italian. It features on the city’s coat of arms and four of them are placed on the official flag, although the original name of Turin has roots planted in the Celtic word Tau, meaning mountains. Nevertheless, images of bulls are commonplace on many sporting logos, with Juventus’ old badge using a small one similar to that of Torino’s early crests.

It’s also where Torino’s nickname, Il Toro, comes from. No surprise there. The bull itself represents power and strength, plus a hint of unpredictability, in the area of symbolism and that power and strength was certainly a factor in Torino’s early success.

The 1940s saw Il Toro become the most successful team in Italy, winning five Scudetti and a Coppa Italia, captained by superstar Valentino Mazzola. That particular side came to be known and is still cherished as Il Grande Torino, and made up a fair share of the national team. However, the tragic Superga plane crash in 1949 claimed the lives of the entire squad and two of its coaches, among other club officials, as the team travelled back from a friendly with Benfica in Lisbon.

After a period of immense grief that spread across Italy, Torino flitted between Serie A and Serie B trying to find their feet. Towards the end of the 1960s, they were back on the map, challenging for silverware again thanks to the genius of Gigi Meroni, who was then killed crossing the road after a league game.

 

Despite this bad luck, Torino, now known simply as Torino Calcio, managed to bounce back, winning their seventh and final Scudetto in 1976 before deciding to make a major statement with their badge a few years later. The egg-shaped shield was dropped for a quadrilateral look and, finally, the bull took centre stage, its head bowed, ready to charge.

The maroon colour was now clearly evident, with the club’s full name appearing on the logo for the first time, rather than partially with initials. It wasn’t long before designers reverted back to the egg, though, trapping the bull back in its shield under a crown until 1990. It was with that more traditional badge that Torino Calcio went under, declared bankrupt and barred from Serie A in 2005.

Upon its reform as Torino Football Club later that year, a new crest was drawn up, one more suited to the 21st century. The big bull was back and more elegant than ever in the middle of a more striking shield complete with the club’s name and its year of establishment. The maroon and gold colours remained, with the blue from the shield on the old badge squeezed in to underline the word ‘Torino’. That’s where we find ourselves today, with Torino back where they belong and battling for Europe in Italy’s top flight.

By Billy Munday @billymunday08
Art by Tom Griffiths @ARTomGriffiths

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