One of the countries in my world, Izisbesi, is located in the far south and is home to Reindeer and Elk. I was thinking it would be really neat if the locals there traditionally rode those kinds of animals instead of horses like on Earth and the rest of the planet, at least until horses may be imported into the area.

When thinking about the idea, I immediately figured that antlers would likely be in the way or possibly strike a rider's face. I'm considering if the antlers would be or if maybe they would be routinely cut off.

One thing about my planet, Tala is that it does have half the gravity of Earth, which I'm hoping could maybe increase the load that any given animal could carry.

Side note: this culture often incorporates animal horns and antlers into their attire, meaning if that's the case, this could be where some of their antlers come from.

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    $\begingroup$ @LeeMosher I'm grateful that AlexP repaired the grammar. Please note that it's not only permissible for anyone and everyone to edit a post to improve the silly mistakes that we all make, it's expected and it's often kinder than pointing out the error. In short, don't comment about spelling errors. Just fix them. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH there is a lower limit on the number of characters an edit can have. Maybe it doesn't apply to people having your/AlexPs reputation, but I've tried fixing minor typos on various different SE sites and was prevented by that limit. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'm downvoting this on the grounds of lack of research. Don't get me wrong, a culture that rides these creatures and incorporates their antlers into their armor would be very cool! This is just an easily-google-able facet of the worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ All of the answers so far have been about Moose. I don't know where OP is based, but in North America, at least, Elk and Moose are not even close to the same thing. Elk vs. Moose. Elk reach a maximum of about 1.5m at the shoulder, while moose can be up to 2.1m. That interpretation could definitely affect answers. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because a two second google search answers this question. Lack of research IMO. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 21:09

6 Answers 6


Absolutely. Moose have been ridden and Sweden had plans in place for a Moose cavalry and apparently they were used for couriers at one point.

The Russians used them as draft animals in WWii and Santa Claus used them to pull a sleigh and may have ridden them in emergency/fun situations.

The point is that they ARE rideable, just not utilised much as they're not the best choice of mount. But people still ride reindeer even today.

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    $\begingroup$ Even Wikipedia article on reindeer mentions, that owners in Siberia sometimes ride them, but there is note, that "Siberian reindeer are larger than their Scandinavian relatives", this leads me to believe that reindeers are on the edge of being comfortably (for the animal) ridable by normal sized human. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ @byMaelstromer well...... Santa Claus is pretty big..... just saying $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 9:35
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    $\begingroup$ To my knowledge Santa Claus still uses reindeer for his sleigh so it should say 'uses' and not 'used'. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ @byMaelstromer The Saami in northern Scandinavia do ride reindeer as well. (Though these days they usually have upgraded to snow-scooters.) But only the largest animals and, as far as I'm aware, only relatively short distances. And the Saami people are in general not very large/heavy. $\endgroup$
    – Tonny
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ @civitas the general principles of hoof wear are unlikely to vary much within ungulates. With especially light loads on particularly soft ground the hooves may not wear enough naturally and need to be trimmed, whilst with especially heavy loads on particularly hard ground (such as paved roads) the hooves would wear too quickly and require shoeing. The sweet spot is, for obvious reasons, around the animal's natural weight on ground similar to its natural habitat. Excessively damp soils can also cause splitting of the hoof, necessitating different sorts of shoeing $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 13:30

I believe it is worth pointing out that moose and reindeer have quite different sizes. A moose appears physically absolutely able to carry normal adult humans. Reindeer not so much, since they are less than half the weight of moose.

However, with large reindeer and lightly-built people it works and you can easily find photographic evidence on the internet, e.g. here. Not sure how practical and comfortable it is when compared to other species.

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    $\begingroup$ Let's not forget that the ancestors of horses were even smaller, and had to be selectively bred to be good mounts. In early bronze age they were mostly only pulling chariots. Bigger and stronger horses were bred deliberately to be able to carry more weight for longer distances. Therefore if people started doing the same thing to moose (or even reindeer) many millennia ago, they would today likely be much better mounts than they are now. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ See my comment above. A moose is not the same as an elk. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 19:54

Already happens with reindeer.

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you will note reindeer antlers don't hang backwards much.

They are small but it is worth noting the first horses were not much bigger than reindeer, they are bigger now because we bred them to be bigger which we would also do to riding reindeer. It also helps that humans were also smaller back then. Just like horses your reindeer will not stay small they will be bred larger for riding. Also this is for most reindeer, be aware different herds of reindeer have different length antlers. For some of the largest males among the largest herds the antlers will be a problem, but the solution is the same as elk, and you should expect breeding for smaller antlers just like with did with oxen.

Elk is more of problem, you would either have to cut the back part of the antlers (not hard or problematic) or stick to females. of course you would quickly breed for smaller antlers so it would not be a problem for long.

  • $\begingroup$ The antlers are not only problematic if the animal looks left or right, but also if it raises its head upwards, it would appear from the picture a raised then shaken head would sweep the area near to the saddle. $\endgroup$
    – civitas
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ Sticking to females is also a good idea. Even with regular horses, those used for casual riders (for example, tourists, or casual hobbyists, instead of athletes) tend to be females, as they are easier to handle by inexperienced riders. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ @civitas not for the reindeer, they don't stick out that far, could they reach you if they tried, sure, but mostly only by trying to hit you. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 22:22

Moose and elk are large enough to ride. There have been cases of moose being habituated to humans and being ridden. I don't recall ever seeing an elk being ridden, but I don't see why they could not be. Reindeer and caribou are too small, but in teams they can pull carts or sleighs.


Here is a link to an article about the species Alces alces.

Males (or "bulls") normally weigh from 380 to 700 kg (838 to 1,543 lb) and females (or "cows") typically weigh 200 to 490 kg (441 to 1,080 lb), depending on racial or clinal as well as individual age or nutritional variations.[38][39]


The word for that species in the USA and Canada is "moose", but in Eurasia they are called "elk". When I was a child I read a scene in Bambi where Bambi looked with awe upon a passing group of elk, but was surpised to see that they looked like moose in the illustration.

The elk (pl.: elk or elks; Cervus canadensis), or wapiti, is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in its native range of North America and Central and East Asia. The word "elk" originally referred to the European variety of the moose, Alces alces, but was transferred to Cervus canadensis by North American colonists.

Elk have thick bodies with slender legs and short tails. They have a shoulder height of 0.75–1.5 m (2 ft 6 in – 4 ft 11 in) with a nose-to-tail length of 1.6–2.7 m (5 ft 3 in – 8 ft 10 in). Males are larger and weigh 178–497 kg (392–1,096 lb) while females weigh 171–292 kg (377–644 lb).[21]


The reindeer or caribou[a] (Rangifer tarandus)[5] is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to Arctic, subarctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of Northern Europe, Siberia, and North America.2 This includes both sedentary and migratory populations. It is the only representative of the genus Rangifer. Herd size varies greatly in different geographic regions. More recent studies suggest the splitting of reindeer and caribou into six distinct species over their range.

The females (or "cows" as they are often called) usually measure 162–205 cm (64–81 in) in length and weigh 80–120 kg (180–260 lb).[146] The males (or "bulls" as they are often called) are typically larger (to an extent which varies between the different species and subspecies), measuring 180–214 cm (71–84 in) in length and usually weighing 159–182 kg (351–401 lb).[146] Exceptionally large bulls have weighed as much as 318 kg (701 lb).[146] Weight varies drastically between the seasons, with bulls losing as much as 40% of their pre-rut weight.[147]


So perhaps they should be described by their scientific names Alces alces, Cervus canadensis, and Rangifer tarandus, so everyone knows which species is being talked about and can picture how large they are.

Other answers point out that people have sometimes ridden Alces alces and Rangifer tarandus.

This article has two photos of Cervus canadensis being ridden.


So apparently members of all three species have sometimes been ridden.

I give no advice about which would be the best - or least bad - to be domesticated and ridden.

If your world is a different planet, are we supposed to assume that the people and animals are all imported from Earth, or are they actually non Earthly species which have evolved separately from Earth life and only resemble Earth species to a degree?


I once traveled to Tala for business. I ended up in a real podunk town, so there was nothing to do at night. Naturally, that left me scrolling through talabuilding.stackexchange on their planet's internet. There, I came across the following question asked by the user "Izisbesi is Besti":

Could horses or camels be ridden by humans or humanoids?

Apparently, Izisbesi is Besti was confused about how one would steer a horse or camel. After all, they don't come with handlebars! This user suggested outfitting some sort of hat with long handles, but others responded that neither horses nor camels like to wear hats, and that there are plenty of regions on Tala where horses can be ridden just fine.

Of course, if you just saw the horses, camels, reindeer, or elk, you would be shocked if they could carry anything without collapsing. They're all long and spindly due to Tala's low gravity. But then you'd see that Talans themselves, being built like Tim Burton characters, could down countless sandwiches before inconveniencing their mounts.


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