Horse of a Different Color
aka: Fantastic Cavalry
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 Powerup 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. Super Trope
of Kangaroo Pouch Ride
and Seahorse Steed
, and sometimes Domesticated Dinosaurs
. For actual horses (or other animals) with unusual colors, see Amazing Technicolor Wildlife
Nothing to do with the album of the same name by the country group Big and Rich.
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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.
- Gungrave also has the Tomas, which, while not featured as a primary mount, are used instead of horses for racing purposes. Mostly just a Mythology Gag owing to Yasuhiro Nightow creating both series.
- 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.
- Also the kangas (giant riding kangaroos) in some versions of Paradise Island.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Tauntauns can be acquired as a mount in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
- 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. note
- "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).
- Rock steeds in BIONICLE are bipedal dinosaur-relatives ridden by desert bandits. For some reason, however, the movie The Legend Reborn had them acting exactly like actual horses.
- 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.
- 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 caich, despite their name and appearance, are predators.
- You wouldn't expect Mechwarrior, BattleTech'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.
- 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.
- 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 The General series, giant dogs take the place of horses, adding an extra dimension to cavalry combat.
- Gdon, or Dawon, is a sacred tigress in Tibetan and Hindu mythology that is ridden by the goddess Durga.
- 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.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the protagonist serves as a mount to his Ninja Butterfly while he is transformed into a wolf.
- Battle for Wesnoth's goblins use wolves as mounts.
- Empire factions in Elemental - War of Magic may use wargs (giant wolves, unsurprisingly) as mounts for their soldiers, assuming they can find any. Heroes of either faction may purchase and ride warg mounts. If you want your Badass leader to ride into battle on top of a white wolf, then why the hell not?
- Warg Knight not horses and oxen as we know them, but they are instead descendants of each respective species.
- In Dragon Quest VIII, a sidequest earns you Baumren's Bell; an item which allows you to summon and ride sabretooth tigers on the Western continent.
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 sDogs Of A Different Color.
- All over the place in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. From the Tauntauns of Hoth, to the Dewbacks of Tatooine and lizard-like Varactyl of Utapau, any planet inhabited by sentient aliens will be guaranteed to have domesticated and rideable exotic beasts of burden of some sort.
- 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 vultuplant merged with a horse, and you'll get the idea).
- Aahz of the Myth Adventures series is too squat-bodied to comfortably ride a horse, so when he participates in a ritual hunt as security, he's given a hiphippohippus (similar to a skinny rhino) as a mount.
- The rider for one of the opposing teams in Jahk's Big Game was mounted on an armored hump-shaped creature with thousands of very tiny legs underneath, and no evident head or sense organs.
- In Petty Pewter Gods, the Shayir pantheon's original believers were the Ox-Riders of Gritn. As their culture is long extinct, it's unclear if anyone in Garrett's world still rides oxen.
- It's not clear what the "horses" in The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett actually are, but given that they have compound eyes that change colour when they're frightened, and are ridden by people to whom a matchstick is an unending wall of wood, they certainly aren't horses.
- 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.
- Riding dogs (read: big, working breeds) are a very common mount for Small characters.
- 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 40,000 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, and giant spiders (pony-size).
- In the furry RPG Ironclaw, since horses are a playable race, they have a variety of domesticated dinosaur-like reptiles. The ones intended for riding are named after varieties of horse, i.e. palfries look like struthiomimuses while destriers are more like utahraptors.
- 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 cameoZrt'' [[http://www.collectedcurios.com/sequentialart.php?s=383 tried to ride a platypus for fun.
- Pokémon X and Y allows the use of Pokémon such as Gogoat and Rhyhorn as steeds.
- In the multiplayer mode of Red Dead Redemption, the player can unlock mounts other than horses and donkeys, including a bull, a zebra, and the American bison. In the Undead Nightmare DLC, you can ride the Four Horses of the Apocalypse (only one at a time, though).
- World of Warcraft has a different basic mount for each race, plus a couple extra for some classes, plus various flying mounts, plus constant new additions and a variety of limited edition ones. Wolves, dinosaurs, giant bats, giant lizards, ostriches, dragons, big cats, sheep, pretty much all bases are covered somewhere.
- Rift has a similarly eclectic line-up, including everything from ordinary horses to monitor lizards, Mechanical Horses, giant squirrels, a creature resembling a huge floating blue glaucus, and a sort of hybrid of antelope and oviraptor.
- Drowtales has Dawmere/Unicorn, horse-like animals, that have cloven feet and short fat horns on their head, they are more akin to donkeys or mountain goats then horses. Real horses exist, but are rarely if ever used by the titular Drow, as they are unsuited for underground conditions.
- 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.
- Being based on Dungeons & Dragons, The Order of the Stick likes this trope quite a bit. Belkar's wiener dog, Hinjo's dire wolf Argent, Xykon's zombie silver dragon, Lien's shark Razor, and Redcloak's summoned fiendish mammoth all get play during the Battle of Azure City alone. The demon roaches even lampshade it when riding a raccoon.
- 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.)
- 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!
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): He-man's typical transportation is Battlecat, a giant tiger.
- In Frozen Sven the Reindeer fulfills this trope.
- 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 spores 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.
- An episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender had Azula and friends'' riding giant basilisk lizards, complete with a scene where they run across the surface of water.note
- People have tamed zebras and managed to ride them before, but it is more impractical than horses because of their temperament and because zebras have less speed and endurance than horses. Zorses (zebra-horse hybrids) are somewhat more practical as mounts.
- Reindeer (yes they exist) are the only deer that can be said to be domesticated. They can be ridden or trained to pull carriages.
- Oxen are ridden occasionally.
- 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 arose 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.
- Asian elephants have been used as mounts for thousands of years, although more as beasts of burden than long-range transport. African elephants are far less manageable, although some individual animals will allow a familiar human keeper to ride them.
- Camels, for both one-humped dromedaries and two-humped Bactrian species. Subverted with their llama cousins, who aren't strong enough to carry a grown human and seldom tolerate much close contact with people but can be used as pack animals. The even smaller and daintier alpacas are an even worse choice for a mount though they are less bad tempered than llamas.
- While nobody was around to ride them at the time, Nature took a shot at duplicating the modern horse with the Notohippidae, an extinct family of notoungulates from Eocene and Oligocene South America. With grazing teeth, long faces, and a roughly equine build suitable for running, they resembled true horses via convergent evolution and existed simultaneously with Mesohippus and other proto-horse genera, but were only distantly related to true horses.
- Here are some examples: http://www.messybeast.com/history/working3.htm