A load of bull? Or a star sign that proves astrology right?

Taurus, as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London in about 1825
Taurus, as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London in about 1825

What have Oliver Cromwell, Catherine the Great, Lenin, Marshal Tito, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, and Hosni Mubarak all got in common.

What have Oliver Cromwell, Catherine the Great, Lenin, Marshal Tito, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, and Hosni Mubarak all got in common, apart from autocratic tendencies? They were all born under the star sign Taurus, the Bull.

I used to be sceptical about astrology, and still find it hard to accept some of its claims. I was certainly put off by those ludicrous horoscopes one sees in the popular press, which give the impression everyone in a particular sign (one twelfth of the world) is about to meet a tall dark stranger, or come into money, or whatever.

It was mainly Taurus that persuaded me there might be something in this thoroughly unscientific and illogical business after all. (Illogical since, due to the progresssion of the heavens, all the signs have shifted away from their original positions, as determined in ancient times.) Each zodiacal sign seems to produce its characteristic type, but Taurus strikes me as by far the most distinctive of them.

Taurus runs from April 21 to May 21, so we are currently stamping and snorting our way through it.

In addition to all those autocrats (and Hitler only just misses it, being born on April 20), Taurus seems to produce robust-minded philosophers and ideologues. People who believe they have a formula for explaining or reconstructing the world. Immanuel Kant (April 22), Ludwig Wittgenstein (April 26), Karl Marx (May 5), Sigmund Freud (May 6), John Stuart Mill (May 20) are some.

Taureans tend to be strong-willed, dogmatic, determined in their views. It is often futile to try to reason with them, even when they are patently wrong. Tony Blair (May 6) is a Taurean.

General Allenby (April 23) was actually nicknamed “The Bull” by his First World War troops, though I doubt if they knew about his sun sign. Jeremy Paxman (May 11), asking Michael Howard the same question 14 times, and tossing politician after politician from his Newsnight horns, is another who might deserve the sobriquet.

Their often-admirable desire to transform the world can be combined with indifference towards those closer to hand. Bertrand Russell (May 18) twice went to prison for his views - once for opposing the First World War, once for opposing nuclear weapons - yet behaved abysmally towards his own family. Florence Nightingale (May 12), another notable humanitarian, is also said to have been a domestic despot.

Again, while many star signs have their associated physical attributes, the jowly taurine face that many Taureans manifest is particularly distinctive. Saddam (April 28), Golda Meir (May 3), Orson Welles (May 6), Pope John Paul II (May 18), and Pol Pot (May 19) had it; the Queen (April 21), Alan Titchmarsh and David Beckham (both May 2), Michael Palin (May 5), Vince Cable and Alan Bennett (both May 9) all display it.

A little book on astrology warns that the Taurean’s temper “is not quickly roused, but when it is, it can be frightening: ‘bull in a china shop’ is a good phrase to describe him at such times”. It says Taureans can be possessive and given to jealousy. On the positive side, they have Venus as their ruling planet, making them “warm-natured, very affectionate and sensual”, and seeking “happy and stable relationships”.

As with any sign, I believe those born under it can learn in time, with insight and practice, to circumvent its inherent limitations and develop its inner strengths, though not many seem to manage this.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: No, I am an Aries – a headstrong, impulsive, pugnacious (and all the rest of it) ram.