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Assuming horselike animals do not exist on the planet where my story is set, what would be the most effective way to travel as fast as possible over land in a medieval world?

In terms of animals, they're similar to what you'd find in the rainforests on the west coast of North America. Really anything that would actually live in an extremely wet and cool climate.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is the travel on formed roads or cross-country? $\endgroup$ Apr 23 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ The Romans transported horses over quite long distances to places where they weren't native... $\endgroup$ Apr 23 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ @www "not native to the area" is not quite the same as "don't exist". Consider editing your question to clarify. $\endgroup$ Apr 23 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ I did, sorry for any confusion $\endgroup$
    – www
    Apr 23 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ Question has already been done worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/18828/… voting to close $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Apr 23 at 11:55

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Runners. People can actually outrun horses or any animal in terms of long distance, we can tackle terrain even horses can't handle. We've used people in many cultures since forever and horses were usually expensive in medieval times. Whole empires were built in the Americas without the need for horses.

For traction animals, all the various camelids have been used, reindeer, moose etc,. Some are preferable to horses in some terrains.

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    $\begingroup$ And for pack animals, in those terrain types where horses don't work out, there are goats and sheep -- both of which are capable of walking places we'd need rope and pitons. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 23 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ "People can actually outrun horses or any animal in terms of long distance" is a misconception that's been going around, based a misunderstanding of how persistence hunting works. Horses have beaten men in 39 marathons out of 42: runnersworld.com/news/a44174832/man-outruns-horse $\endgroup$
    – wokopa
    Apr 23 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer not because it fills the niche of a horse, but that it acknowledges the possibility of a civilization without them. As far as WorldBuilding choices go, designing a kingdom without any horse or horse substitute will force you to be a lot more creative when designing your civilization which will lead to a more interesting setting. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 23 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ @wokopa a marathon is nothing, men can and do run down horses, it might take days. runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a20954821/… $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Apr 23 at 13:26
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Moose cavalry may or may not have been a real thing.

(An American moose is what in Europe we call an elk. An American elk is extremely similar to what in Europe we call a red deer.) What is known for sure is that Soviets did try to domesticate the moose with some degree of success, so it is perfectly plausible that it can be done.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't that just a horselike animal? $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Apr 24 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbamok: Both are tetrapods, both are mammals, both are eutherians, both are euungulates. Other than that, their most recent common ancestor lived some 55 to 60 million years ago. Cladistically speaking, moose are more closely related to whales than to horses; at least the most recent common ancestor of moose and whales is at least 10 million years more recent. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 24 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ uhm, genetic relations are completely and utterly irrelevant for phenological similarities. Besides the antlers they have a very very similar bodyplan and that is what counts. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Apr 24 at 12:51
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Dog sleds

If you don't have a large domesticated herbivore available, a bunch of smaller animals can pull something like a sled or cart. Works best on snowy terrain or when you happen to have good roads.

enter image description here

Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Two_Klondikers_with_dogs_packing_supplies_along_the_Chilkoot_Trail_near_Dyea,_Alaska,_1897_(LAROCHE_111).jpeg

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    $\begingroup$ If you don't have snow or suitably all-terrain wheels, you can still use a travois. They were used with dogs, originally. $\endgroup$ Apr 23 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ If it's supplies the dogs are transporting, a travois is fine. However, if it's human beings, it requires multiple dogs, and the travois' A structure might not be possible to fit on the back of multiple animals. It depends on the load's weight. $\endgroup$
    – Flocon
    Apr 23 at 14:06
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Bicycles.

They are suprisingly easy to manifacture, even with medieval means, once you get the idea down.

Early instances were made of wood https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wooden_bicycle - and it is not hard to imagine a expansion on this - with medieval technologies.

Chains, Gears, Flywheels and what have you not. In a world were there are no horses and domestication fails due to https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01019 - mechanics and people may take up the slack.

Funny thing also, if you use some hamsterwheel contraption with a gear system, a bicycle can be "motorized" using undersized animals, unfit for the task of mount but longdistance capable on there own. Hamster powered inka-bikes for the win.

PS: I personally recommend the husky-cat-honda. It has that inter species hatred kick, that jolts you from 0-100 in seconds. Not unlike a hamster on speed.

Example: https://dogpoweredscooter.com/

At this point may i redirect your attention to the actual experts: https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/93997/could-a-historic-1500-1700-ad-bicycle-stand-rough-terrain-if-yes-how

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    $\begingroup$ Primitive bicycles, though, are dependent on reasonably smooth roads or paths. A wooden bike wouldn't stand up for long even on cobblestones, never mind a rutted dirt road. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 23 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ @wokopa And if you can't spare the labor to maintain the road after every significant rainfall (in your near-rain-forest climate) it becomes impassible even for a horse or other animal in a short time. Trust me, I life half a mile down one... $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 23 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ You don't need chains, gears or (teethed) flywheels for a basic bycicle. Belts can do the same job $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Apr 24 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbamok belt driven bicycles exist, and they do have teethed gears because smooth wheels would just slip. They are also quite expensive and difficult to make compared to chain drives. $\endgroup$
    – ojs
    Apr 24 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ If medieval technology includes reasonable bevel gears, maybe they could design a shaft-driven bicycle. They are (mostly) out of favor in the modern age due to mechanical losses, but maybe they'd make it work. All of this depends a pretty silly premise, though, where mechanical locomotion is somehow able to compete against livestock in the absence of good infrastructure. $\endgroup$ Apr 24 at 14:00
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Besides the already mentioned moose, I'd suggest:

1. Bovines

While a bison's running speed (~55 km/h) rivals that of a horse (~50 km/h while galloping), I don't see the species beeing that easily tamed and domesticated for transportation (it hasn't been this far in human history for various reasons).

However, if your setting goes beyond north american fauna, I would strongly suggest bovines of some kind. The auroch (Bos primigenius) was easily domesticated and became cattle (Bos taurus), and although it was bred for labor & meat, thus producing thick and slow animals (slower than horses, at least), I don't see why you couldn't breed aurochs for speedy mounts (we don't know their exact running speed because they went extinct before we could record it, but multiple written accounts–including Julius Caesar's in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico–specify that they were fast and agile).

Plus they're very resilient, and could be well suited to your setting's climate. The only downside is maintenance: they need a while to eat, being ruminants.

In other parts of the world, bovines are used when horses aren't native and/or practical: zebu riding in Asia, yak riding in the Himalayan region...

2. Camelids

This might be a wild stretch, but there are camelids that live in temperate to cool (although dry) climate: llamas and alpacas could fit the bill. They are being used as mount in South America, and their running speed is nothing to be ashamed of.

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    $\begingroup$ Bactrian (two-hump) camels also live in colder climates, even at fairly high elevations. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 23 at 12:14
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By foot

Most rideable animals have a difficulty crossing at-least one of swamps, hills, mountains, or dense forests. Especially when carrying a person. With no idea about what the terrain is like, going by foot seems the safest answer.

Any vehicles you could conceivably build using medieval-ages tech face the same problems, where they are bound to a very specific terrain, or require at minimum a flat plain/dirt roads.

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