I'm currently trying to build a world where there is no animal that is like a horse, for example mule, or donkey, or horse.

What animal could be ridden by humans if the animals were the same size as a horse?

For example, what if there was a big spider that could be ridden, or a wolf that has an acceptable size to travel with a man.

On top of that, how would men battle with this kind of rideable animal, and tools that will be used: saddle, weapons ... ? Also, how well will humans be able to travel over long distances?

I think that Dinotopia is a good example to illustrate what I am looking for, but without dinosaurs.

Edit: I'm not sure I was totally understood. Here I'm not looking for existing animals that are horse-sized, but animals that normally are smaller.

What kind of small animal have a good temperament, Strength and stamina to be ridden. Only mammals? or insect could be chosen? The horse-sized duck is a good one because it's amphibious. For example: could a horse-sized squirrel be a good mount?

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    $\begingroup$ Surely they would ride horse-sized ducks? $\endgroup$ – TheBeardyMan Jan 3 '17 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ I am afraid this question is primarily opinion based. How do you decide best animal? $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Jan 3 '17 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ the animal would be based probably on country, situation, and availability. For example a big wolf would be better in a colder climate than a giant naked mole rat $\endgroup$ – depperm Jan 3 '17 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ He didn't ask "best" he just asked "what". I think answers could include factors to consider when deciding on an Animal. For instance, what makes horses good for riding and llamas not? $\endgroup$ – Inbar Rose Jan 3 '17 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ In our world, there's already another animal about the size of a horse that's ridden extensively. So the answer to your question is that the alternative animal would be a camel. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Jan 3 '17 at 15:00

Whatever was around.

How about cows, or camels, reindeer, llamas, ostriches, elephants.

Take your pick, anything big enough, strong enough, and trainable can be ridden.

What makes a good riding animal?

Temperament, strength, stamina, diet. Not necessarily in that order, ideally you want a herd herbivore of some sort.

Temperament is a key one here, rhinos have strength, but you're not going to try riding one more than once. Deer could be too flighty when threatened, most species are also too fragile to carry load. Lone animals could be a bit obstreperous with constant enforced company, you want a group or herd animal, used to constant company, where you can replace the "herd" with yourself. You need an animal that is calm in the presence of humans, able to be trained to obey rather than to make its own decisions in stressful circumstances.

Carnivores tend to be difficult to handle, expensive to feed and ultimately they carry the risk that you'll be on the menu at some point. Small carnivores, cats and dogs for example, make good companion and hunting animals, but large carnivores, say bears, lions, or tigers, are really a no go. Most herbivores are able to live on grass, conveniently one of the most common plants in the world, and hence saving you a large amount of required cargo to feed the animal.

Strength and stamina are important simply to make them viable as cargo animals giving you extra range. If they don't have both then they become a burden rather than a benefit. When you travel you need to carry extra food and supplies for the sake of the animal, if they lack the strength to carry their own food and yours (and you), or they lack the stamina to give you extra range over what you'd have walking, then it's not worth riding.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Anything trainable can be ridden" is, I suppose, true up to a point, but the question is how effectively it can be ridden. People can & have ridden cows, camels, and whatnot in special situations, but whenever circumstances permit they go back to horses. That's because riding a horse is much more of a partnership (at least if you're doing it well) than making a trained animal perform. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 3 '17 at 21:21

Anatomy capable of bearing adult human weight is required. At minimum, the larger half of adults must be able to support an adult human + essential tack (saddle or equivalent) in an also-human-compatible riding position and posture.

If I recall correctly, Lamas can be used to bear loads, but not human riders; their spines just can't take that much weight on their only feasible mounting location. A Stegosaurus would have limited riding postures, without an elaborate (heavy) saddle to span over Stegy's back spines.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is actually very important. To use a mammal as a steed, it is not enough to grow it to size of a horse. It needs to be big enough to support the rider's weight on it's shoulder blades - which will usually mean much bigger than a horse, because horse's have their shoulder blades quite massive. $\endgroup$ – Borsunho Jan 4 '17 at 3:55

Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond deals with this. Obviously there are lots of animals big enough to carry people but which were not domesticated to do it. For example African elephants. Indian elephants carry people all over. Romans and North Africans knew this. So why not domesticate African elephants? Answer: they are jerks. Camels are jerks too but maybe there were fewer options so people were more persistent trying. Ostriches can be ridden but offer few advantages over a horse.

In your SF you can make up what you like and say it can be ridden. Alien riding animal is fine for background color but not that interesting. Another banth.

But a twist: maybe a large and semisentient alien animal can be ridden because it carries its young that way (like anteaters), and having a rider triggers maternal instinct. Or the smaller males mount the females on mating and go around that way for some time (like damselflies) and so riding the animal is like mating with it. A short SF (or funny substory) could be about human colonists who realize they can ride this alien animal and proceed to do so, not realizing the later ramifications that interaction will produce.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd guess that a camel's bad mood is simply less of an issue that African elephant's. $\endgroup$ – Borsunho Jan 4 '17 at 3:48

Ants. Ants are capable of carrying objects 50 times their own body weight, have stamina, are easy to grow, can live in groups, can be mind-controlled by certain fungi (so perhaps we can manipulate this) and don't have the necessity to proliferate or eat. Plus, they can walk on walls and ceiling.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sadly an ant the size of a horse can't even lift itself. If we redesigned until it could we would end up with, well, something roughly similar to a horse's carrying capacity. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Jan 3 '17 at 17:05

I see at least some conditions:

  • Docility (we can agree, that one of the worst things that can happen is that the animal will be disobedient or even aggressive)
  • Speed (what is the point of slow "vehicle")
  • Battle usability (obviously, if you need to use them in battles)
  • Comfortability (this is probably not that important (just nice to have), saddles would be invented really quickly for any kind of animal and in battle, it is not the thing you are looking for).
  • Special abilities (only I can think about is flying or stings)

From this, I think that a suitable answer would be...


  • It is more docile than most of other carnivores. (see this link)
  • It surely is fast. And as was mentioned in the comments it would be great for shorter distances.
  • It is a beast, after all, so in battle, it can bite your enemies.
  • It is similarly comfortable as the horses.

...eagle, falcon (or something similar)

  • Falconry is pretty common in some countries, so it is possible to train these birds.
  • Usability in battle is also quite obvious.
  • Flying!
  • Comfortability may be an issue, I am not sure if it has the right constellation to carry a man.
  • I am thinking about howl (because of night vision as special ability), but I still think that falcon is better.


  • They surely are docile. We (as human kind) have a plenty of experience with training dogs for strange purposes. I am sure, that is would be also doable.
  • Speed isn't always a strong point, but some dog breeds would excel even in that (sighthound)
  • They are even some dog fighting breeds.
  • Comfortability will be also no worse than when riding a horse.
  • There are really a lot of different kinds of dogs, so if whole dog world would be bigger, there will be a good chance to choice the perfect match for every single rider (just imagine that).
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  • $\begingroup$ I'd say more important than speed is endurance. A cheetah is fast on short sprints but he's definitely not very endurable. Also he's regionally limited and I don't think he'd survive the cold winters in the upper northern hemisphere. $\endgroup$ – Otto Abnormalverbraucher Jan 3 '17 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ You say birds are not clever, the crow is one of the smartest creature we know. $\endgroup$ – Rigop Jan 3 '17 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Rigop you are right, I forget also the parrots and falcons. Edited. The same with cheetah speed. $\endgroup$ – TGar Jan 3 '17 at 18:33

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