How Phar Lap Measures Up

Champion that he was, Phar Lap narrowly failed to conform to the old Arab theory of ‘perfect balance’ – which is explained by his massive hindquarters.

According to the theory, the measurement from the top lip of a horse up its face, between its ears and along its neck to the middle of the wither should be the same as that taken from the same point of the wither, along the back, over the loins and rump and down to the last joint of the tail.The theory is that if both measurements agree, the horse has perfect balance. The greater the difference between the two measurements, the less valuable the horse, according to the theory.

In Phar Lap’s case the distance between the middle of his wither to the specified tail joint is two inches longer than the measurement over the face and the neck to the wither. The reason given for the difference was because of Phar Lap’s extraordinary development behind the saddle.

Regardless, it was not unusual for champions to fail to conform exactly to the Arab theory. Bert Wolfe, who wrote under the nom-de-plume Cardigan as Turf Editor of The Herald in Melbourne, said in an article in the late 1940’s that of the “many champions” he had measured over 25 years, only Beauford, Arachne, Ajax and Bernborough met the criteria.

Bernborough Ajax Phar Lap
Length of head (centre of ears to tip of lower lip) 27 32 29
Girth 72 73 79
Below knee 9 9
Hip to hock 40 42 42
Hock to fetlock 18 18 18½
Height (in hands, which equals 4” or 10cm) 17 +½ inch 16.1 17.1