Phar Lap reunited


First we sold him to Australia, then they gave part of him back to New Zealand – now there are moves afoot to reunite the various parts of our favourite racehorse, Phar Lap, for the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup in November.

Story:  Australia: Can we borrow Phar Lap’s bones?

Phar Lap's skeleton overlaid with a 1930s photo.
Phar Lap's skeleton overlaid with a 1930s photo.

Big Red’s heart is in Canberra, his mounted hide in Melbourne, and his skeleton is in the national museum at Te Papa in Wellington, New Zealand.

Brilliant! This might be the chance to get Phar Lap’s skeleton put together correctly. Regulars to Horsetalk will have read about our efforts to get Te Papa to re-assemble Phar Lap’s skeleton properly. As he stands now, his skeleton might as well be that of a 15hh bush brumby. And not a well conformed one at that.

I made the overlaid picture at the right after seeing Phar Lap’s skeleton for the first time. I aligned his trapezium (back of knee) and his wither as best I could – note how the skeleton had to be tilted. It definitely comes up short in so many ways. The original pictures are here. What do you think?

Phar Lap at the Melbourne Museum.
Phar Lap at the Melbourne Museum.

He has been moved a couple of times in the past, but has stayed in his original pose. Te Papa says he is an example of a mounting in the style of 1930s taxidermy.

Phar Lap should be held up as an example of excellence – a legendary racehorse and depression-era hero – not an example of how skeletons were assembled in the 1930s. His mounted hide in Melbourne definitely does the horse justice – New Zealand needs to do the same for his skeleton.

Former teacher of veterinary anatomy at Massey University, Dr Alex Davies, has said the world was full of badly mounted skeletons. “It would be nice if Phar Lap wasn’t one of them.”

I agree … Phar Lap’s skeleton going to Australia could be the perfect opportunity to return the great horse to his full glory.

* Today is the 78th anniversary of the death of Phar Lap.

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