Horse of a Different Color
Pretty Chocobo, what a happy time on your back
They may look like a chick
But they go quick
With a dramatic kick!
—Hyadain, Rap de Chocobo.
Evolution being what it is, alien worlds (or Earth time periods far removed from the present day) are bound to have different forms of animal life than our world. The people there, however, are usually just like us
, or close
, and would therefore develop and breed different livestock to fill the same needs.
And one of the major needs is for animals to fill the niches that horses fill on Earth: basic transportation in areas where mechanical transport are impractical, unknown, or expensive; or prestige transportation in areas where mechanical transport is cheap and easy. Horse-replacements may also be used as draft animals.
Of the types of creatures available, large flightless birds are probably the single most-common type of horse-replacement. Two-legged fast dinosaurs come up frequently. To replace the larger draft animals, vaguely ox-like creatures and large lizards seem to be popular, and some may be Mix-and-Match Critters
Evil, bloodthirsty races will often use a giant form of a common predator, like a wolf. Cats are a mixed bag, they are predatory, and notoriously disobedient, but both heroes and villains can be seen riding them, and performing great feats of sure-footed trick riding.
A flying creature that can be trained, and can carry a man
, is the holy grail of animal husbandry. Most fantasy settings have at least one, either a scaled-up physically implausible thing
, or just a big one used by a small and light race of people
are especially popular
in this department.
For maximum Speculative Fiction
cred, try having the mount not even being made of flesh and blood
. In video games, these often become a Power-Up Mount
Named for a pun in The Wizard of Oz
, although that was an actual horse that, as the name suggests, kept changing color randomly.
Compare Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp"
, when the animal actually is, for all intents and purposes, identical to a real-world animal. Kangaroo Pouch Ride
is a subtrope.
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Flightless Birds and Other Bipeds
Anime and Manga
- Last Exile has some very chocobo-esque flightless birds. Although they were never used as mounts they replaced horses as the animal of choice for racing.
- In Maze Megaburst Space, a two-legged brown dinosaur is the preferred cavalry mount.
- Horseclaws are giant flightless birds used as rides in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (and inspired the above-mentioned chocobos).
- Nausicaa also features another type of unusual mount, referred to as Warbeasts, which are something like giant, shaggy dogs with cow horns & lizard-like feet.
- What look like giant ducklings are used as mounts in One Piece's Kingdom of Alabasta.
- In Samurai 7, some people ride around on giant turtle-like creatures. With shells.
- Trigun has the Tomas, weird cross-breeds between ostriches and dinosaurs.
- In DC comics the Atomic Knights of Earth 17 ride on giant dog creatures. The Atomic Knights also show up in Final Crisis riding these dogs into Bludhaven.
- Strontium Dog has morks.
- Flinx in For Love Of Mother-Not rides a stupava riding bird through the soggy forests of Moth, where its partially webbed feet come in handy for the muddy terrain.
- The Gaunt's Ghosts novels had birds called Struthids used as cavalry on one of the planets; the general description made them look like the bastard child of cassowaries.
- Horses do exist in Terry Pratchett's Discworld, so when some Mad Max-style raiders trying to get at Mad the dwarf's water supplies show up in The Last Continent riding and/or being pulled by a variety of things that are very notably not horses (including an emu, as described by someone who has never heard of such a thing), it's mostly to illustrate how utterly insane Fourecks is.
- The Rudewood's hotchi in China Miéville's Iron Council ride oversized chickens. They also use these oversized, highly aggressive roosters in gladitorial cockfights.
- Within the city of New Crobuzon itself, people use Remade animals as beasts of burden, such as horses that have had most of their bodies replaced with machinery, and minotaur-like beasts.
- The Seanchan of The Wheel of Time series have, among other things (see other sections), corlm, creatures like large ostriches with brown fur instead of feathers, although these are used mainly for hunting rather than as mounts.
- In the Sugar Rain series, characters ride 'horses'. This functions to emphasize that English is really a 'translation' when a rider settles in for the night he gives the 'horse' a feedbag of meat.
- In Ragnarok Online, the standard animal of monture are giant birds called Pecos, not unlike Chocobos. They are limited on use to one class job, however (even if the things are also in the wild and can be captured as mascots).
- Although with third jobs, Wargs, Griffons and the dragon-like Ferus are now both also fair game.
- Blood Elves in World of Warcraft ride flightless, vaguely ostrich-like birds called Hawkstriders. Often referred to as Chocobos by fans.
- Gnomes get robotic ostriches called Mechanostriders.
- Striders - similar to riding birds, but scaly and butt-ugly - are used as mounts by the Kang of Talislanta, and their smaller, feistier cousins, marsh striders, by the Jhangarans.
- Warhammer Fantasy Dark Elves and Lizardmen ride theropod-like creatures known as Cold Ones.
- Halflings in Dungeons & Dragons Eberron campaign setting ride two kinds of bipedal dinosaurs, called fastieths and clawfoots. Explanation
- "Axebeaks" (Phorusrhacos, more or less) have featured in several editions of Dungeons & Dragons. (Pathfinder seems to have shrugged and openly presented them essentially as predatory chocobos.) White Wolf's Scarred Lands setting had "tent birds," a desert-dwelling variant with supernaturally heat-resistant feathers that could use its huge—albeit still flightless—wings to shelter itself and its hatchlings (or its rider).
- The various world-settings in the Final Fantasy series use a type of giant bird called a Chocobo as a riding mount. Some variations of them can fly, though.
- Super Mario Bros.: Yoshi, to the point of being referred to as such (though in a rather derogatory fashion) by the popular Lets Player, raocow.
- Early in Rogue Galaxy, the hero is seen riding a sort of skeletal mount called a Yago. Apparently they must have some meat on them because a sand worm eats one at the end of the first chapter.
- Strangely, the Pokémon Duduo and Dodrio — based off of ostriches — can learn Fly in the games. The anime makes a clever justification when Falkner's Dodrio makes a leap that makes it look like it is flying, though the birds are usually ridden as land mounts when seen.
- There are undead units in Battle for Wesnoth which ride skeletal 'chocobones' which are a clear parody of the Final Fantasy birds.
- Abe in Oddworld: Abe's Oddyssey can ride a strange, Ugly Cute creature named Elum in certain areas. The manual describes him as "Cranky, stubborn, and smells like a burst sewer pipe, and those are his good points. Fortunately, chicks dig him."
- The first Jak and Daxter has the Flut Flut, a tropical bird that Jak rides on in certain levels. However, its flightlessness is due to the fact that it's a baby, so it's fair to assume that a full grown Flut Flut would be more of a Giant Flyer. Jak 3, meanwhile, has the Leaper Lizard, which despite being a dinosaur/dragon-like creature is, well... A Flut Flut of a different colour in essence.
- The Cralluck in Star Trek RPG materials; an Acamarian flightless bird.
- Parodied in College Saga, where the hero rides a chocobo played by a man in a fursuit.
- Ostrich riders, though they (the ostriches) tend to be pretty unhappy about people riding on their backs, making them impractical for any use other than recreation.
Anime and Manga
- Chiyo-chan in Azumanga Daioh is so small, she can comfortably ride Mr. Tadakichi, a Great Pyrenees, to Sakaki's envy.
- Which was probably inspired by the novel and Japanese anime series Belle And Sebastian (which also happens to be the name of an indie band), where the latter, a small boy, would often ride on the back of the enormous Belle (also a Great Pyrenees), as they traversed the French and Spanish countryside in search of Sebastian's mother.
- In the Magic World of Mahou Sensei Negima!, the mount of choice appears to be dinosaur-like reptiles such as the one Makie rode while buying groceries for the bar she worked in.
- While Akamaru the dog from Naruto is as small as most dogs before the time-skip, he grows to the size of a pony over the course of 2 and a half years. His owner, Kiba, uses him as a mount occasionally post-timeskip.
- And Kiba acts surprised when Naruto brings it up. "Really? I must not have noticed!"
- Other ninja dogs, including Kakashi's and Kuromaru (the one used by Kiba's mom), are capable of talking. And after the Time Skip Kuromaru is inexplicably even larger than Akamaru.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind features "Warbeasts", which are something like giant, shaggy dogs with cow horns & lizard-like feet.
- In the classic comic book series, ElfQuest, the focus characters are the Wolfriders. They literally ride wolf companions like mounts, but their relationship goes deeper; there's a literal biological kinship due to the tribe's founder, Timmorn, who was the offspring of a wolf and a shapechanged high one.
- In Judge Dredd, raptors are used to pull coaches in parts of the Cursed Earth.
- In the The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck chapter "The Terror of the Transvaal", Scrooge rides a lion around the savanna. In a later one he also uses an emu (an Australian species of giant flightless bird related to the more well-known ostrich) for transportation, and even makes use of a kangaroo at one point.
- Sir Didymus, a bipedal fox, rides an English sheepdog in Labyrinth.
- This is also an example of Furry Confusion, in that we have a normal, barking and growling canine serving as mount for an anthropomorphic canine (or possibly a squirrel or skunk) who can walk and talk, but also barks and growls along with his mount on occasion.
- The titular hero in Thor invoked this: when the pet shop told him they had no horses he demanded a dog big enough to ride.
- Goblins in The Hobbit ride on Wargs — huge, intelligent, evil wolves.
- In S. M. Stirling's and David Drake's "The General" series of SF novels, the stranded inhabitants on the fallen colony of Bellevue ride genetically engineered giant dogs instead of horses. The native wildlife (Velociraptors) was hostile enough that horses weren't considered viable, but a 1200-pound Doberman the size of a draft horse was. Biological implausibilities were gleefully ignored although it's mentioned in passing that modifications were made to their spines to enable them to bear the weight of a rider.
- The 1987 Ardath Mayhar/Ron Fortier After the End collab Trail of the Seahawks also featured giant riding dogs (and giant mutant foxes that could be trained as mounts).
- Another series with dog mounts was Mike McQuay's painfully sucky duology of Pure Blood and Mother Earth. But McQuay felt the need to call them "woofers" for some reason.
- C.J. Cherryh's Finisterra series of novels has creatures called nighthorses that could be easily mistaken for horses, except that they are telepathic foul-tempered carnivores whose group behavior is based on being pack hunters. In contrast to herbivorous horses' tendency to form groups for protection, nighthorses formed groups for attacks. The implications of this are shown in the stories in such a way that it becomes quite plain that nighthorses are not just differently colored horses.
- In Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, a bard character domesticates a giant lynx by playing his harp for it. The creature loves the music, and, at first, attempts to attack the other characters when he stops playing. Eventually, it takes a liking to everybody and becomes positively cuddly.
- The mole-men have the hated dirt-puma, the giant alligator, and the pseudo-saur (which is actually a giant iguana).
- In Randall Garrett and Vicki Heydron's Gandalara Cycle, the only animals big enough to ride are presentient and telepathic pantherids called sha'um (which translates to "great cat").
- The Seanchan of The Wheel of Time series are among the strangest examples: they have, among other things (see other sections), lopar, large naked-bear-like creatures (with three eyes) used in lieu of horses in combat, and torm, large cats with bronze scales (and three eyes and six-clawed paws), also used in combat but more difficult to control. There are also grolm, three-eyed bear-frog hybrids used in combat but not as mounts, and S'redit, which are probably just elephants, used to carry cargo.
- Sheri S. Tepper's Grass is a planet with a human settler population, some of whom ride "hippae" to hunt "foxen". Offworlders assume that "hippae" is just the local dialect for "horses". It's not. The hippae are predatory creatures rather like utahraptors with sharp spikes, and they want to be ridden for reasons which are extremely sinister.
- Cardassian Riding Hounds in the Star Trek universe.
- The Guardian faction in Rift can acquire valmeras (essentially large two-tailed cats with horns) as mounts.
- In World of Warcraft, orcs ride giant wolves, trolls ride giant raptors, and night elves ride giant felines.
- And to continue this, dwarves ride large rams, draenei ride elephant-like creatures known as elekk, the Forsaken ride skeletal horses, and the tauren ride dinosaurs!
- Common in Dungeons & Dragons:
- Halflings in some Dungeons & Dragons settings use large breeds of dog (Saint Bernards, mastiffs, and the like) as riding mounts.
- Eberron also gave us Bear Cavalry!!!
- Taking a page from Tolkien, Goblins commonly partner with Worgs, a race of evil, intelligent wolves.
- Giant dogs (podogs) are common steeds in the Gamma World setting, for those who can't afford freaky mutant horse/insect critters.
- Like in Tolkien and D&D, Hobgoblins in Warhammer ride wolves.
- Space Wolf Marines can ride huge wolves called Thunderwolves (who are actually descendants of genetically altered humans. Long story).
- Rifts has many examples, such as the Simvan Monster Riders. They are nomadic aliens who have a psychic power that makes all animals instinctively subservient to them. This allows them to use anything from a horse to a T. rex as a mount. Also of note are the Larhold Barbarians, who ride mounts called War Bison, which, despite their name and appearance, are predators.
- You wouldn't expect Mechwarrior, Battle Tech's tabletop RPG, to feature these, but they do. Played straight with the tabiranth, an alien big cat that takes surprisingly well to riders. At about eight and a half feet long, four and a third feet tall at the shoulder, and over five hundred pounds, tabiranth are essentially riding tigers. Averted with the other noted alien riding beast, the Odessan raxx. In spite of looking like a six-legged elephant-sized monitor lizard, it is actually an implied herbivore, explicitly noted to be a Gentle Giant, and an extreme Mama Bear to boot.
- In Goblins, the members of the Viper clan ride Worgs (this is not that unusual in a D&D setting). One of them is riding some other Bad Ass creature (namely, a howler).
- Koark from Order of Tales rides Potok, who resembles a giant cross between a dog and an aardvark. (Hey, insectivores are carnivores!)
- The Order of the Stick: It has one paladin riding Argent, a kick-ass wolf, and another one riding Razor, a shark. The halfling riding dogs are spoofed in The Order of the Stick when Belkar ends up riding a dachshund.
- The Empire of Blood is implied to utilize dinosaurs as cavalry.
- Unsounded has giant dogs that appear to replace equids and bovines altogether.
- Dino Riders is a show/toyline that's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- And who could forget Battle Cat, huge, occasionally talking, green Tiger (or is it a Liger?) with a shiny red saddle for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Likewise, Skeletor has Panthor, although he practically never rides him for some reason. In the 2002 show, he and his evil cohorts preferred to ride giant humongous griffins, instead.
- David the gnome is known for traveling on his fox pal, Swift, as well as several other woodland animals like rabbits.
- The Legend Of Korra has a polar bear-dog named Naga.
- Private Wojtek (pronounced Voytek) the Soldier Bear, who served in the Polish 22nd Transport Artillery Supply Company during World War II. To quote from the article:
During the fighting, Voytek the Hero Bear actually hand-carried boxes of ammunition, some weighing in at over 100 pounds, from supply trucks to artillery positions on the front lines...His actions were so inspiring to his fellow soldiers that after the battle [of Monte Cassino
] the official insignia of the 22nd Artillery was changed to a picture of Voytek carrying an armful of howitzer ammunition.
- Dogs are used for pulling light carts or, particularly, sleds. (e.g. sled dogs such as Huskies) for both recreation and working purposes. Dog carts were once common due to dogs being cheaper to care for than horses but were outlawed in some areas due to somewhat misplaced animal welfare concerns.
- Not a Husky, but a coworker of mine had twins who were 2-3 years old at the time and a German Shepherd who is highly protective of them. They would sometimes get on its back and the German Shepherd would sometimes wander around the house with a 2-3 year old on its back.
- Orcas have been trained to allow riders on their backs at the surface, or to tolerate humans clinging to their flukes below the water. Bottle-nosed dolphins or beluga whales can also drag human swimmers along in the water, but aren't large enough to carry a person on their backs.
Anime and Manga
- Record of Lodoss War features a group of knights who ride on Wyverns (Heraldic creatures similar to dragons).
- Naruto Has artist ninjas Sai and Deidara ride paintings and clay sculptures of birds brought to life respectively.
- Giant eagles were favored as steeds by Winnowill's people in Elfquest.
- In the prequel comic book to the video game The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Reguard, itself entitled The Origin of Cyrus, depicts Dark Elves riding astride giant wasp-like creatures. None of the games feature this, presumably for time/budget/technical reasons. However, in Morrowind, you CAN ride giant tick-like creatures from one town to another.
- Dragonriders of Pern: the dragons were genetically engineered from small flying lizards. They form a mind bond with a single rider at hatching.
- Although both horses and oxen exist on Pern ("Runnerbeasts" and "Cartbeasts") and are in far wider use, for obvious reasons. Though they are not horses and oxen as we know them, but they are instead descendants of each respective species.
- The Skybax Riders of Dinotopia, who train and fly on huge Pterosaurs, rest very proudly in the realm of the Rule Of Cool.
- The Inheritance Cycle is all about this.
- Dragon riders are fairly widespread in fiction, to the point of being savagely parodied in Terry Pratchett's 1983 The Colour of Magic
- Speaking of Discworld, herons and buzzards qualify as "giant flying steeds" if you're a gnome.
- And one of the Nac Mac Feegle has a hawk as his steed of choice.
- The tarns (large flying birds used as steeds) of John Norman's Gor novels.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth stories (The Lord of the Rings, etc.), Sauron's Ringwraiths ride the wyvern-like flying 'fell beasts'. There are also the giant eagles have been known to give people rides. Notable example, Gandalf's escape from the tower of Orthanc.
- Harry Potter: There are a number of different breeds of winged horses (based in part on the legend of Pegasus and Bellerophon), according to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Hogwarts employs thestrals, probably the least horse-like breed.
- Don't forget hippogriffs.
- In one of Baron Munchausen's tall tales, the Baron tames and rides a roc.
- In the Dorian Hawkmoon trilogy by Michael Moorcock (also known as the History of the Runestaff), there are flamethrower-wielding warriors who ride giant flamingos.
- The Seanchan in The Wheel of Time series have, among other things (see other sections), raken and to'raken, large bird-like creatures used mainly for scouting and surprise attacks.
- Most flying mounts in World of Warcraft. Gryphons, Wyverns, Phoenixes, Dragons of many kinds, too much to list.
- One obscure tribal culture in the Mystara D&D setting rides giant pelicans. Not cool, but handy if you're carrying cargo.
- The mainline D&D setting also has pegasi, griffins, and hippogriffs.
- Wyvern Knights are a common type of cavalry in the Fire Emblem franchise, as are Pegasus Knights.
- In the classic video game Joust, your character rides a generally ostrich-sized and shaped bird that is capable of flight.
- In the lesser-known sequel Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest, your ostrich can transform into a pegasus. Also, in both that game and the original Joust, your computer-controlled opponents are all mounted atop giant buzzards.
- A few Flying-type Pokémon are Dragons...or at least look like one in the case of Charizard (not to mention several final form Flyers are quite big). Parodied in the anime when Ash tries to use his own Charizard as a proper mount for the first time and fails horribly. Justified in the fact that Ash's Charizard is actually much smaller than a regular Charizard apparently should be, and took a while to learn how to do such things. The next time they try it in the third movie, Charizard is able to maneuver around deadly spikes with Ash on his back with apparently no negative repercussions.
- Battle for Wesnoth's Dwarves use Gryphons as mounts.
- The Loftwings of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Link's is special because of its rare red coloration.
- Balkoth, leader of the Death Faction in Lords of Magic, rides a giant bat.
- Like many other worlds, in ancient times Dragons were used as mounts in the Avatar The Last Airbender world, before being hunted to near extinction. The Sky Bison of the air-nomads are in a similar state; giant, intelligent six legged oxen with beaver tails that could fly, now with only one member of their species - Appa - believed left alive. As of the Sequel Series The Legend Of Korra, however, a new colony of Sky Bison have been found, which gives hope that the species can be repopulated.
- The Pirates of Dark Water was set on a world without wide-open spaces of dry land. Flying critters called Dagrons (small dragons, really) were the ride of choice. Turns out they had a secret.
Anime and Manga
- InuYasha: Sesshoumaru's preferred mount is something that can only be described as a two-headed dragon-horse in what might have been inspired by certain types of kirin imagery.
- In Princess Mononoke, the hero of the story rides what is referred to as a "red elk," but looks more like a (slightly modified) siberian ibex. Not only can the beast comfortably carry a rider, but is so strong that he can do that kind of animal's graceful leaping so burdened.
- Ashitaka calls his mount "Yakkul," and it is entirely fictional. Indeed, it goes as far back as the short manga Shuna's Journey, Hayao Miyazaki's first written story, where the entire species is called "yakkul."
Collectible Card Games
- Go-Backs from ElfQuest use their world equivalent of reindeer and such as their mounts when hunting or traveling.
- And the Sun Folk used zwoots (horse-ish camels), while humans occasionally used no-humps (horses).
- Golden Age Wonder Woman comics had the Amazons ride on the backs of Kangas, vaguely kangaroo-like animals.
- The Na'vi also ride fa'li, or "direhorses", six-legged, nectar-drinking horse-things.
- The Dark Crystal had Landstriders, long-legged beasties with stinger tongues.
- The racing snail in The Neverending Story movie.
- The inhabitants of Dirt from Rango primairly use bats, roadrunners, and peccaries as horses.
- Star Wars had several; Tauntauns on Hoth, Dewbacks and Banthas on Tatooine,
Baby Dinosaur Ponies Kaadu on Naboo, etc.
- The Hobbit presents a Megaloceros deer-like steed Thranduil rides on during the film's prologue.
- In Julian May's Saga Of The Exiles, the mount of choice for the Tanu dwelling in Earth's prehistoric past is the chaliko- short for chalicothere. Chalicotheres are extinct relatives of horses, rhinos, and tapirs. (Unfortunately they're also generally pretty slope-backed and have a gait that really wouldn't work well at all on a riding animal. Oh well.)
- The thoats and zitidars used as mounts in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian/Barsoom stories featuring Captain John Carter of Virginia.
- In Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, the upper-class transport of choice is the Chevaline, which is a kind of robot horsey with a vestigial knob for a tail.
- In Dune the Fremen ride the sandworms of Arrakis. Great-worms and lesser-worms are used in teams to pull a chariot.
- The Duel of Sorcery Trilogy featured rambuts (something like talbuks, or possibly Yakkul) and macain (reptilian mammals, or mammalian reptiles, that hatch from eggs and resemble ornithopod dinosaurs).
- H. Beam Piper mentioned in Four-Day Planet that most people in the Terro-Human Future History universe believe (incorrectly) that horses are extinct. The narrator mentions having seen "so-called Westerns with the cowboys riding Freyan oukry."
- The Weber/Ringo collaboration that is the Prince Roger series has a species referred to variously as 'flar'ta' and 'pagee', described as a hexapedal triceratops, almost. They are herbivorous, and mostly placid, although there is a related species ('flar'ke' or 'pagithar') which is far more aggressive (the analogy drawn is to Cape buffalo). The flar'ta fills much the same role as an elephant- pack animal, mount and occasionally war beast. There are also the civan that are used as cavalry mounts. They are described as horse-ostriches, and are two-legged, omnivorous, scaly and have a vicious streak about two miles wide.
- Older Than Feudalism: In True History by Lucian, the king of the Moon rides on a vulture-horse.
- Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen trilogy has domesticated elephant-sized dinosaurs which the U.S. destroyer crews, not knowing the "brontosaurus" was actually an apatosaurus, think of as miniature brontosaurs and call "brontosarries."
- In "The Atlantean Age", a setting book for Fantasy Hero, the Tellat Empire fields units mounted on "battledons" — take a rhino, make it 50% bigger, and add extra horns, claws, and bad attitude. Meanwhile the Hazarians look almost normal with their knights in plate armor riding giant wolves.
- The Planet Of Adventure series by Jack Vance has "leap-horses" as the native substitute quadruped. They have heads resembling a horned tapir and exaggeratedly long necks as shown here◊. As their name implies their motion is more of a bounding motion that a horse-like gait. All in all riding one sounds like a fast-track to lower back problems.
- Creatures called "chimelos," which may or may not be dromedaries, are used as mounts by desert-dwellers in Infanta.
- John Maddox Roberts's Stormlands series has "cabos" (the word is implied to be derived from the Spanish caballo; essentially four-horned horses) and "humpers" (basically camels, only with horns and tusks).
- The Lorini in Star Trek: Ex Machina use animals resembling protoceratopians as beasts of burden.
- The Hokas in The Earthman's Burden use large, dinosaur-isque lizards as mounts. Particullarly apparent in the first story, in which the influence of the Wild West has even led them to call them "ponies".
- Gargants in Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series, are mentioned in the first book, but, aside from being the size of a freakin' minivan, not described until the second. Word Of God says they are related to giant ground sloths (which went extinct sometime around the end of the Ice Age in real life).
- In books five and six, we see Canea, the Canim homeland, and their riding beasts the "taurga" [singular "taurg"], creatures that are depicted as fairly bull-like (with some rabbit-ish features), extremely large (they're cavalry for wolf-warriors that can reach 9 or 10 feet in height, with proportional weight), incredibly ill-tempered, and enthusiastically omnivorous.
- The Myth Adventures series has featured some pretty bizarre mounts, including the hiphippohippus (think: rhino slimmed down for agility) ridden by Aahz in "Myth-ter Right", or the many-legged armored beast (think: glyptodont with millipede feet) used by the Ta-hoe team's rider in Myth Directions.
- Asides from the above mentioned Skybaxes of Dinotopia, dinosaurs are also frequently seen being used as mounts.
- The Dying Earth series of Jack Vance featured "oasts", huge humanlike primates whose riders sat on their shoulders. On at least one occasion, the hero Guyal was chased by a mounted troop on these creepy things.
- In his speculative non-fiction book Profiles Of The Future, Arthur C. Clarke pondered possible future transport innovations. One of his more fanciful ideas was that genetic engineering might produce a new riding animal superior to the horse: a miniature elephant that could use its trunk to open doors, handle packages, etc.
- The MMOG Ultima Online has an array to choose from. Bipedal dinosaurs without front arms called ostards, llamas, ki-rins, and giant beetles are among the choices.
- Gaia Online has a few mount options, mostly from the Wild Things set. The Roc is pretty obviously a chocobo knockoff, and the other Wild Things are a wolf (Fenrir) and a tiger (Khan). In addition, the Fallen Wish item has a serpentine dragon that you can ride, and the Kelp o' the Loch gave you a proper horse... as well as a hobby horse.
- The Defiant faction in Rift can get vaiyuu (which look like a cross between an Oviraptor and an antelope) and mechanical horses. And that's only a sampling of the weird mounts in the game.
- The Warcraft series, particularly World of Warcraft, features such a wide variety of mounts that listing them all would be impractical. For starters, each of the ten playable races has a distinctive basic mount, ranging from undead horses to mechanical ostriches to elephant-like elekks. In fact, humans are the only race that gets an actual honest-to-goodness horse. Then there are the various flying mounts, starting with griffons and giant furry bats and later progressing to sporebats, drakes, miniature helicopters, hippogriffs, etc. Lastly, Wrath of the Lich King introduced a variety of new land and flying mounts including mammoths, proto-drakes, flying carpets, motorcycles, and turtles; not to mention achievements for acquiring as many mounts as possible. The highest of these requires 100 mounts, and grants as its reward ... yet another mount.
- It's worth noting that pre-release promotional material for the Burning Crusade expansion referred to the Blood Elf mount as a Cockatrice; eventually, however, someone at Blizzard realized that introducing a creature with "cock" in its name into a game largely played by teenagers and immature twentysomethings was just asking for trouble. They were renamed Hawkstriders.
- Elekks look more like pyrotheria than elephants, really.
- Averted by the Worgen race. They don't have their own mount, they just run around on all fours.
- The gods of most religions often have some unusual mounts. Examples include the golden boar of the Norse god Frey, the dragons who pulled the chariot of the Titan Kronos, and most Hindu gods ride an animal that has particular symbolism.
- Other than the aforementioned Podog, in Gamma World there also is the Hopper (a giant mutant jackalope who is as dumb as a brick), the Centisteed (a horse with a whole lot of legs, as well as bug-eyes and antennae) and the incredibly odd Pineto (think of a cactus plant merged with a horse, and you'll get the idea).
- In Dungeons & Dragons' Eberron campaign setting, the Kingdom of Breland is famous for their bear cavalry. As a certain image macro says: "Bear Cavalry: Yeah, you're pretty much fucked.◊"
- Unless you have Cat Snipers.
- Or are a halfling, in which case you ride freaking dinosaurs.
- The standard steed in the '"Dark Sun'' setting, a kank, is a giant beetle.
- D&D has several entries under every category of this trope, so it's worth pointing out that you can ride essentially anything in this game under the right circumstances, including a gelatinous cube.
- Warhammer 40000 has tons of these: cyber-horses, boars, cyber-boars, giant lizards, daemons that look like weird worms, daemons that look like metal rhinos...
- In addition, the chief source of meat in the Imperium is the Grox, a large, rather ill-tempered lizard-like creature.
- As usual it's overshadowed in the sheer awesome department by its sci-fi brother, but Warhammer Fantasy also has a variety of fantasy mounts, including wolves, boars, giant spiders (pony-size), gigantic spiders (rhino-size), cold ones (featherless giant velociraptors), pegasi, sauropod dinosaurs, griffons, woolly rhinoceros', small carnasaurs, various sorts of daemonic mounts (including the metal rhino ones), and naturally, dragons.
- Frankly, Dungeons & Dragons has a million of these things, some of the odder ones including Giant Bees and enormous Wall Crawling lizards popular among the subterranean drow. If it's got the strength score to carry you, you can hypothetically train it for riding (or in the case of intelligent creatures, ask it politely).
- You can ride a gelatinous cube. Well, really, you ride IN it and wear protection from the digestive acids, otherwise kind of in trouble. Illithids ride inside a cyst in a purple worm's mouth. Or you could ride on a soarwhale, basically a living blimp...whale...
- The brixashulty is basically a mountain goat domesticated as an all-purpose livestock animal by halflings. Mundane, yes, but it's fun to see the look on everyone's faces when your "halfling riding goat" singlehandedly (singlehoofedly?) splatters half the enemy in a single critical bull rush.
- In Dark Sun, people ride a lot of weird stuff, though mostly bugs the size of a good ox and bigger-than-elephant lizards; halflings can ride even more various... uh... things, including giant dragonflies they are growing for this purpose.
- 4e has added a "mount" property to beasts you can ride. Those include, among others, blade spiders.
- Likewise, Rifts features just about everything, from Cool Horses to Dinosaurs to giant beetle-like monsters to bears and even giant chickens (Fun Fact: Cossacks refuse to ride the giant chickens). Plus Robot and Cybernetic horses. Magic robot horses, too. Some species, such as Psi-Ponies and Blood Lizards, can even be chosen as player characters.
- The Savlar Chem-Dogs in Warhammer 40000 are an Imperial Guard regiment taken from the inmates of a toxic nightmare of a prison planet. Their Chem-Riders tend to saddle up bizarre, vile-looking mutant critters, Emperor knows what.
- The third-party D&D setting book Nyambe: African Adventures follows the lead of the Saga Of The Exiles and includes chalicothere mounts. Here, however, it's clearly stated that they require special saddles.
- In Warzone, some human soldiers ride on horse-sized bipedal dinosaurs/lizards in the jungles of Venus.
- Ussal Crabs in BIONICLE.
- Also Rock Steeds, which, despite their name, are actually large carnivorous dinosaurs. And then there are the Tahtorak (Bionicle Kaiju) on whose backs the members of the Skakdi race rode. Sand Stalkers may also count, since they look like armored dicynodonts.
- In Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, the party's covered wagon is pulled by what resembles a giant blue mouse called a Papaupamus.
- Final Fantasy IX has the gargants, a species of giant beetles that crawl upside down on special tracks. Wild gargants can be bribed with food, and partially controlled by their fear of water. Domesticated gargants are trained to carry special carriages.
- Final Fantasy X has a giant blue elephant-like creature called a "Shoopuf" that carries large amounts of people at once.
- The Elder Scrolls series replaces cows with Netches on the island of Vvardenfell, home of many strange and unique beasts, which are herded and slaughtered for leather. For some reason, the game feels the need to prepend "Netch" to every piece of leather equipment (so, instead of wearing a leather cuirass, you wear a "Netch Leather Cuirass," just like a real person would wear a "Cow Leather Jacket"). Still, they get a bit of a pass, since netches, being enormous floating jellyfish-esque monsters, fall squarely under the Rule Of Cool. Seriously, it's an enormous jellyfish.
- Vvanderfell also has Guars, which are basically large and fairly cute bipedal lizards used as draft animals, and the enormous insectile Silt Striders used as mass transit.
- Morrowinds concept art book depicted people riding Guars. This never made it into the game either due to time constraints or because it would be absurd (Other creatures in Morrowind tend to follow common sense when it comes to anatomy, but Guars have heads almost as big as the rest of their bodies.
- Note that regular animals were always part of the series - it's just that Vvardenfell is very strange, but the rest of the world is much more like our own, and contains ordinary horses (and cows), as seen in Daggerfall and Oblivion.
- In Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords, you can capture and ride a number of creatures, from a giant rat or wolf to a giant, fire-breathing spider.
- The giant pig-like Bulbos from The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess
- In Age of Wonders most mounted units ride horses or wolves, but the Lizardmen are the most unusal ride giant frogs. There are also specialized units which ride giant eagles, wyverns, giant moles, and giant beetles.
- Before she became an expert Miko and learned to fly on her own, Reimu Hakurei used to mount an intelligent, talking, flying turtle named Genji.
- Tales Of Symphonia has all three:
- Noishe, the party's overworld mount, is a giant white green dog with massive ears. Who's deathly afraid of monsters. And in one of the skits is speculated to be an ancient ever evolving creature.
- Some enemies are seen to ride oversized raptors called "Velocidragons".
- Actual dragons are sometimes trained as mounts, and the party even rides them at one point.
- Flynn from Tales Of Vesperia uses a horse-like monster with reptilian traits as a steed in one scene.
- The same variety of monster is also seen being used to tow merchant caravans in Tales Of Xillia.
- In the first Grandia game, there was promotional material as well as small cameo in the game proper of a large, long-legged turtle which was used as a mount. Unfortunately, you don't get to ride it at all, and disappeared after one town.
- In the point-and-click adventure AmerZone, you get to ride one of the natives' mounts: a smooth-skinned, swamp-adapted giraffe.
- In Heroes of Might and Magic V, various things are used as rides: unicorns (Sylvan heroes), dinosaur-like lizards (Dungeon heroes and units, and Agrael), elephants (Academy heroes), mammoths (Fortress heroes), bears (Fortress units), and oxen (Orc heroes).
- Borderlands and Borderlands 2 both feature skags, reptiles that behave like feral dogs. The first game's third DLC introduced midget skag riders; the second game has the full-sized version. Skag riders in Borderlands 2 are very specifically meant to stand in for horsemen — they only appear in Western-themed Lynchwood, acting as the tyrannical Sheriff's enforcers and outriders.
- Dota 2 has quite a few heroes who use mounts - Chaos Knight, Mirana, Luna, Batrider, Chen... Chaos Knight even Lampshades it in some of his lines after killing other heroes with mounts.
- Quest for Glory II featured the saddle saurus, a bipedal variety of dinosaur seemingly based on the Muttaburrasaurus. These saurus are prized by the locals due to there great resilience to heat, their ability to go days without water, their compass like sense of direction and their loyalty. The hero's saurus seems less inclined towards this last trait, however.
- In Pokémon X and Y player characters are finally able to ride Pokemon. Granted at the moment the only Pokemon seen mounted is Gogoat who can be ridden as long within you stay in Lumiose City.
- Girl Genius has all sorts of this: wagons drawn by horse-headed men; the Dark Action Girl jaegermonster Jenka rides a red grizzly bear (construct?) named Füst; Baron Wulfenbach's cavalry troops have the beetlesque Hoomhoffers; and the Geisterdamen have... well, giant riding spiders for traveling the Wastelands, and a whole profusion of other creepy stuff besides.
- In Looking for Group (loosely based on World of Warcraft), one of the characters, Richard, is turned into an infant temporally and uses a bunny as a mount.
- In Rice Boy, the Frog-men use giant lizards. Maquìn has a horse-like creature that's able to contract its entire body into its cubical head.
- And in Order of Tales, Koark rides this... thing which appears to be a cross between a horse and an anteater. I don't even know.
- The Denizens (Living Shadow minions) in Sequential Art tried to ride a platypus for fun.
- Erfworld is home to a broad variety of mounts, including spidews, dwagons, gwiffons, unipegataurs, megalogwiffs, tankeroos (kangaroo-formed cloth golems), elephant-formed cloth golems, and a glass golem which appears to actually be in the form of a horse.
- Megatokyo gives us the Rent-A-Zilla whom Yuki Sonoda takes to riding once her Magical Girl abilities really start to kick in. Largo has made use of them in this way, too.
- Doodze features a squirrel. (Not a giant squirrel. Doodzes are tiny.)
- Uncreation features the centitrains, which are giant centipedes that (unsurprisingly) function as trains. They even have the ability to seperate like train carriages - by ripping themselves in half and then regenerating a new head out of the wound.
- In the world of Drowtales it's actually pretty rare to see a regular horse, and the 9 Great Clans seem to prefer using their clan's symbol as a mount. To count it off:
- Sarghress: Big Badass Wolf
- Sullisinrune: Panthera Awesome
- Sharen: Dragon (who are in fact really transformed elves)
- Kyorl'solenurn: Unicorn, which in this setting is closer to a goat
- Beldrobbaen: Giant spiders, or failing that, Driders
- Illhar'dro: Giant birds, which fans jokingly refer to as Chocobos
- Nal'sarkoth: Haledri (essentially a type of yak)
- Vloz'ress: Giant snakes
- Jaal'darya: Biogolems, which can look like pretty much anything
- In The Beast Legion the characters use various mounts at different stages in the comic:
- Brilight is a soul beast that belongs to Master Surya & can fly as well as track the Beast Transfers.
- Dragos's giant Shadow Beast that makes a small apperance in issues 1 & 2.
- Avatar The Last Airbender there are various different riding animals for the different nations due to Mix-and-Match Critters. The Earth Kingdom has the Ostrich Horse (basically an Expy of Nausicaa's Horseclaw), the Air Temples flying bison (only used for companionship and transport, the only one seen in the series being Appa), the Fire Nation has the Komodo Rhino and Mongoose Lizard, and the Water Nations has a less used Buffalo-Yak for the Tundras (otherwise they use boats).
- Promotional material for The Legend of Korra adds polar bear dogs to the list.
- And can't forget the eelhounds, for those times when you aren't just satisfied with running on land.
- Flashbacks have also shown that people in the Fire Nation used to have Dragons fill in this role too, before Fire Lord Sozin happened. Roku, and Sozin himself, can be seen flying on two dragon's backs.
- The dinosaurs in The Flintstones.
- Also, Boy during the "Caveman's Best Friend" episode of The Backyardigans, in a way that reminds most people of Dino. Expy anyone?
- Seahorses are the Spongebob Squarepants equivalant to horses.
- The 'Buggalo' (giant ladybugs) in Futurama are the equivalent of cows.
- And only those who ride Buggalo may have Buggalo. And that's us.
- And when driving Buggalo, you ride a giant tarantula. Farnsworth will have you know that it's not a giant ant:
: Its not a magic bug you idiot, its a magic arachnid! See, count the legs, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight!
- One episode of The Powerpuff Girls had the girls invaded by giant broccoli aliens after they spiked the town's broccoli supply with Mind Control broccoli that left all the adults incapacitated, leaving the girls and the kids to confront the green threat. As part of their vegetable motif, the broccoli king rides a carrot-shaped mount.
- Adventure Time: Both ordinary horses and horses of a different color can be found in the land of Ooo, among them a a yellow lemon camel ridden by the manic and over-reacting lemon person, Lemongrab.
- The topper is an ordinary horse being ridden by a creature that is a cross between a rainbow and a unicorn. (Who is usually herself ridden.)
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: He-man's typical transportation is Battle Cat, a green tiger.
- The Transformers: In the season 3 episode The Face of Nijika, the inhabitants of the planet Zamojin ride on quadrupedal, long-tailed reptiles.
- In Real Life history, several non-horse animals have been used as transport. Most notably, elephants have been used in war quite effectively due to their intimidating nature.
- They're also useful for heavy work, such as logging- they're bright, social animals and can have a good relationship with humans with the right training.
- During the 18th century the Swedish military supposedly experimented with moose cavalry. Compared to horses a moose has better stamina and is far better equipped at traversing difficult terrain. Also they're really big and scary, especially to Johnny Foreigner who often had never even heard of a moose. The Swedes were able to ride and train them as horses in all respects but one: Moose are pretty damn headstrong animals and no-one was ever able to persuade them to stop running away from pikes, bayonets, muskets, and cannons.
- The U.S. Camel Corps, proving that, yet again, Reality Is Unrealistic. Essentially, since the Southwestern United States is a big desert, they decided to experiment with using camels to help the troops operate in the region. The camels were well-suited to the environment, but they did not get along with horses at all, and got along with soldiers even less. The whole project was disbanded around the time of The American Civil War, and the last confirmed sighting of a live wild camel in the United States was in 1941.
- There are camels in Australia (both dromedaries and bactrians) for similar reasons. They were imported for use in the 19th century, then abandoned as automobiles came in. The freed beasties are thriving, (the only feral (i.e. ex-domesticated) camels in the world) to the extent that today Australia frequently exports camels to Arabia.
- A 20th century Camel Corps fought for the British Empire in the North African campaigns as late as World War II. They are commemorated by a statue on the Victoria Embankment, London. (Most of the men listed are Australian, with a few New Zealanders, though there are other then-colonies represented)
- The Roman Emperor Claudius is said to have included camels in his invasion of Britain because the smell and unfamiliarity of camels to the Britons' horses disrupted the chariot tactics the Britons were using against the Romans.
- Some people have managed to ride llamas (or better said, to be tolerated by them), but all serious attempts to turn them into real riding animals have ended in failure. On the one hand, they are too light and weak compared to a horse or a camel (hence why most pictures of "llama riders" you'll ever find show children). On the other, they simply hate to have living beings on their back. Also, they can spit. And turn their necks 180º back...
- Llamas often get the cold shoulder from historians, who lament that them being the sole surviving camelid in the Americas (which in ancient times were also inhabited by camels and several species of equids) deprived the Native Americans of indigenous cavalry. A far more sympathetic look can be found in an early Spanish missionary's chronicle, who praises God for making the perfect mix "of sheep and donkeys".
- Cattle and water buffalo can be saddle-trained, although they're not all that fast compared to horses.
- Not to mention the fact that their skin is much looser than a horse, so that no matter how tightly the saddle is fastened, the rider will be swaying from side to side as the animal walks.
- American bison have been saddle-trained on occasion, although it's likely mostly an entertainment/recreational thing, ie circuses.
- Zebras have been trained to pull carriages or let people ride them before, but it is more impractical than horses because of their temperament and because zebras have less speed and endurance than horses.
- Reindeer (yes they exist) are the only deer that can be said to be domesticated. They can be ridden or trained to pull carriages.
- And donkeys of course.
- Mules and hinnies each technically fulfill half of this trope.
- It's often ignored that horses were in fact not known in the Fertile Crescent at the time the first civilizations arised there, and donkeys were the only equivalent found for a long time in their native Egypt. Some also believe that the ancient Sumerians experimented with onager-led chariots before horses became available.