Bull City Pride

It doesn't take much time in Durham before you'll start to notice bulls everywhere - in public art, in logos, in business names, and even in the free downtown bus, the Bull City Connector.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff on Apr 05, 2019

You'll probably also hear locals speaking lovingly about the "Bull City," a nickname that Durham has embraced with distinct fervor. But it turns out the name began as a mistake.

The prevalence of the bull in Durham stems from Bull Durham tobacco. The product was originally produced by the Blackwell Tobacco Company in the 1800s, which named it after the bull logo used by Coleman's Mustard, thinking that Coleman's was based in Durham, England. But it wasn't.

Nonetheless, the name stuck. Blackwell Tobacco was later purchased by James B. Duke's American Tobacco Company, one of the largest companies in the world, and the Bull Durham moniker took off, becoming one of the most famous trademarks in the world. It even sparked the word bullpen, after a Bull Durham ad painted behind the Yankees's dugout.

Shortly after, in 1912, the Durham Tobacconists baseball team was reformed as the Durham Bulls, who still play in Durham today. More than 75 years later, the movie Bull Durham was released and is widely considered one of the best sports movies of all time. Today, the bull has been widely adopted as a sign of the city's intense local pride.

Here are eleven businesses in the Bull City that are displaying their local pride, exemplifying the flourishing, locally focused shops and restaurants in the area.


Bull City Records
This local record store is a favorite amongst Durham's audiophiles, who cherish the Old West Durham mainstay's expansive selection of vinyl.


Bull City Burger & Brewery
Wearing its pride in the name on the marquee and the names of its products – like the Parrish St. Pale Ale and the Blue Monster burger (a reference to the left field wall at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park) – BCBB is all about the local culture. It even sources nearly everything locally or produces it on site.


Mateo Bar de Tapas
The name may have more to do with chef-owner Matthew Kelly's name than with matadors, but Mateo's sign, shining bright as you head east down Main St., is becoming another iconic bull image. Heed its call to experience one of Durham's most celebrated culinary establishments, which mixes Spanish flavors with Southern dishes.


Bull Durham Blues Festival
Durham is also home of the Piedmont Blues. The Bull Durham Blues Festival draws on that legacy by bringing dozens of blues musicians together for a two-day event each September. And if you're going to honor Durham's legacy, then of course you're going to invoke Bull Durham.


El Toro Cream Ale
Fullsteam Brewery is another Durham institution committed to locally sourced products. They even made a beer inspired by the Bull City, naming it El Toro, which was the original name of the Bulls's first stadium. The stadium still stands only a few blocks from Fullsteam's front door.


Pizzeria Toro
Originally slated to be called Welcome Home, Peter Ligets in homage to owner Gray Brooks's grandfather, Brooks and his partners eventually settled on Pizzeria Toro, tying his beloved wood-fired pizza restaurant to Durham's community. When Toro was temporarily closed due to a fire, they filled their windows with a map of other local restaurants, showing that the name represents a deep commitment to the local area.


Maybe the most creative bull reference, Pleiades is a group of stars that makes up part of Taurus, the bull constellation. It's also a local gallery owned and operated by a group of 10 local artists, promoting and supporting the local arts community.


Beer Durham
Beer Durham is a craft beer store that lets libation lovers bring home growlers full of their favorite brews. Their logo, representing both their city and their product, combines a bull head and a growler.


Bull City Craft
Durham is a creative town, and Bull City Craft is just one of the organizations helping supply it with the means to act its artistic visions. From selling supplies and offering classes to supporting other Durham arts organizations, Bull City Craft is committed to its community.


Bull City Ciderworks
Bull City Ciderworks is all about bulls and apples, making hard cider in Downtown Durham using the produce from a third-generation family orchard.

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