Blogging a dead horse

Last week I blogged about the Spirited exhibition, though I didn’t mention something that caused me some consternation at the time –  an object label discussing the cause of Phar Lap’s death:


This label perplexed me, as I was of the understanding that the ‘mystery’ surrounding Phar Lap’s death had been solved using cutting-edge synchrotron technology, which demonstrated once and for all that it was arsenic that killed the horse. This angle was covered on an episode of Catalyst that aired in 2008.

In querying the alternative position regarding what killed Phar Lap I came into contact with writer Geoff Armstrong, who has published several books on Phar Lap. Armstrong is of the opinion that he died of an illness known as Duodenitis-Proximal jejunitis  a condition that was only documented in the 1980s, and so could not have been diagnosed at the time of his death and necropsy.

Geoff Armstrong has very kindly given me a copy of the book They Shot Phar Lap, Didn’t They?, co-authored with Jeff Thompson, which includes a response to the synchrotron research.


I am looking forward to reading it, and considering this alternative to what I had thought was the truth. Curators are good at keeping an open mind, and seeing both sides of things. Academics, I’m continually reminded, must have an opinion. I will share mine in a future blog post!


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