The use of femtosecond lasers (FSL) in ophthalmic procedures, such as LASIK, lens replacement (cataract surgery), as well as several other treatments, is growing rapidly. The treatment effect is based on photo ablation of ocular tissues by a series of ultra-short laser pulses. However, the laser beam characteristics change dynamically due to interactions with birefringent corneal tissue, which may affect the outcome of the laser treatment. To better understand the effect the cornea has on the laser characteristics, we developed a system for measuring retardation and validated it with precise, standard phase retarders. Then we measured the phase retardation of FSLs through bovine corneas and found that there is a considerable, location dependent, variation in retardation values. This information can potentially help optimize FSL parameters to make their application in ophthalmic procedures safer and more effective.