Deer are not commonly ridden for two main reasons: one is that that most species are light boned and not suited to carrying a load, and also they are undomesticated with a skittish and unreliable temperament that makes them more dangerous to ride than a horse. Some interesting exceptions are given below in relation to the riding of reindeer, elk and moose.
Most deer are too delicate to ride. However, reindeer function well as both pack and riding animals as shown by the video below from Mongolia. There are various tourist opportunities which allow people to visit these communities and ride a reindeer themselves.
Another robust species that can be saddle trained is the elk. Because horses were available as a superior alternative elk-riding never really caught on. But it was a novelty or hobby mount that is featured on early American postcards like the one shown right.
There have been repeated attempted to domesticate moose for riding, but none were completely successful. So moose riding in the early 1900s was initially relegated to being a rodeo or circus act.
During WW2 the Russian arm looked into using moose as mounts in cold and snowy areas that horses could not cope with. A Russian moose farm still exists and is home to a herd of semi-domesticated moose that can be ridden.
Sweden began developing riding moose in the 1930s. In both cases the moose were to unsteady under fire to be really useful.
In the modern day a few people have moose they raised from orphaned calves and that will cooperate with draft work.
Other people get it into their head to jump on the back of a wild moose when it is swimming in the water, This strikes me as kind of a risky idea.
Roosevelt and the Moose
There is a photo from 1912 ostensibly of president Teddy Roosevelt riding a swimming moose. While many accept it as real due to its age, this is actually an early example of photo-manipulation.
Gods and Heroes
Deer are the traditional mounts of symbollic and religious people including:
- Bishop St. Théleau
- The green or wildman
In Scottish tales fairy folk were sometimes described as riding deer, facing towards the hindquarters.
Riding a deer is an aesthetically impressive sight, and quite a feet when dealing with semi-domesticated animals. However with the exception of the reindeer herding societies that live in close association with their animals, it is a very impractical choice of mount.
- Geddes, Arthur. "Scots Gaelic Tales of Herding Deer or Reindeer." Folklore 52 (1951).