I first noticed a pair in the parking lot at Parkland College, hanging from the back of a fire-engine red Ford F150. If you’ve been paying attention to the trucks on the road, you may have seen them too — in between all the two-dimensional vinyl ribbons and the Calvins urinating on rival sports teams and other truck brands — a pair of bull testicles, uncannily realistic, hanging from a truck’s hitch, right below the license plate.
Depending on the manufacturer, these backside decorations are called “bulls balls,” “truck balls,” “bumper nuts” or “truck nutz,” and they come in a surprising variety of colors and sizes.
A quick visit to bullsballs.com, the first company to sell these high-density polyethylene testes online, shows the array of options available to the consumer, in sizes ranging from 4.5–10 inches in length (depending, one assumes, on the size of the vehicle) and in colors like pink, ivory, chrome and brass. They even sell one pair covered with flames and another, for the more patriotic, plastered with American flags.
Whether you love or hate these truck ornaments, you can blame much of their success on one man: John Saller, the president and founder of bullballs.com. The official story is that Saller came up with the product while off-roading, after one of his more daring friends attached a pair of plastic testicles to the back of his truck. This may be lore, though, created by Saller, a savvy internet marketer. As the founder of the first website devoted to selling personalized dog tags online, he was well positioned to make Bulls Balls an international phenomenon.
Saller admits that the idea of attaching false testicles to back of a truck wasn’t his own. “As far as I’ve been able to find out, there was a woman in northern Nevada who started selling them in the mid-80s, but smaller, in a different look,” he told me over the phone from his headquarters in northern Arizona. “Before the internet, it was hard to properly market them.”
Saller’s contribution was the idea idea of making larger, bull-sized testicles. He used CAD software, a common tool of mechanical engineers, to create the three-dimensional design. From there, he created a prototype and then contacted a company in southern California to begin manufacturing the product. Since then, he’s had so much success he’s even developed a second generation of Bulls Balls that incorporates a chain and lock. “Theft is a problem,” Saller says. “People steal them all the time.”
By his account, Saller has done well for himself selling Bulls Balls. “I’ve put a lot of people to work and made a lot of money. I’ve made hundreds of deals both local and international. I have dealerships I work with who include Bulls Balls as one of the options customers can choose when buying new trucks.” Since the product is non-patentable, competitors have sprung up to take their share of this lucrative niche market and Saller has to constantly fight to stay on top.
Still, many may wonder why someone would want to attach a pair of fake bull testicles to the back a truck.
Saller says it’s just a novelty to make people laugh. “Some people equate it with being macho, but it’s just people with a sense of humor.” He also says he hears people say that the only people who buy his product are “rednecks who live in a trailer.” Saller says that, from his experience getting to know his customers, that’s not true. “All kinds of people buy them,” he says, “from women to old men.”
There are plenty of others out on the road who don’t like Saller’s product — and there are legislators who don’t either. In Florida, Republican State Senator Carey Baker has introduced legislation to make it illegal for vehicles to display animal genitals or anything else deemed obscene. Baker says that “if we overlook the small obscenity, then it could grow into a larger one, and we’d have more problems in the future.”
According to Saller, though, “three states have tried to outlaw the product and failed miserably.” It doesn’t bother him, he says. “Every time a state tries something, my sales go up. Plus, it’s a first amendment thing and if it came to it, I’d be prepared to challenge the ruling.” This brings up the question: Could the fight over displaying bull testicles on a truck go all the way to the Supreme Court Falwell”>like Larry Flint’s _Hustler?
Currently though, there are no laws on the books making them illegal and it seems unlikely there will be the political will. In the meantime, Bull Balls and Truck Nutz or whatever you want to call them, will be selling steadily and waving proudly as they pass you on the interstate.