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Phar Lap's skeleton rebuilt to be 'prouder'

Thursday 15 Mar 2012 6:03 p.m.

By Emma Jolliff

A longer and taller Phar Lap is about to go on display at Wellington museum Te Papa.

His posture has been improved in an eight month reconstruction project on the skeleton of the famous racehorse.

The skeleton is one of Te Papa's most popular attractions, but his posture has long been criticised for being unrealistic and not at all like that of a champion.

Mount maker at the museum, Hayden Prujean, says he previously looked “a bit hang dog”.

“His head was slumping and he was a bit knock-kneed,” he says.

Over the last eight months he has been rebuilt by modifying the position of his legs, head, pelvis, spinal column and making more room between the vertebrae.

Conservator Robert Clendon says Phar Lap is taller in the pelvis.

“Before it was very tall in the shoulder, its come down a little bit and its head has actually come up.”

It now matches the stance of Phar Lap's hide that is on display in Melbourne.

The reconstruction means Phar Lap's now 12cm longer and 18cm taller than he was before.

That is not the only change visitors will notice.

“I think they'll see a much prouder horse,” says Mr Prujean.

Born near Timaru but raced in Australia, the champion won the Melbourne Cup 82 years ago. He also won two Cox Plates and 19 other races.

Mr Clendon says Phar Lap had a unique anatomy.

“[He was] very big in the shoulders, quite small hooves, which is unusual.

“It had a very large heart so it's rib cage is quite expanded.”

His six kilogram heart remains in Canberra and is the National Museum's most requested exhibit.

The re-modelled cult hero will be ready to view at Te Papa at the weekend. 

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