Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#1
Hi,

I found these two articles on travel time pre cars/trains/airplanes and thought they might be of use since many people here write medieval-ish settings.
Anyways, the articles were interesting in and of themselves.

https://www.enworld.org/threads/travel-times-in-fantasy-pre-industrial-society-by-foot-horse-boat-etc.318719/

https://indiesunlimited.com/2020/03/24/getting-it-right-time-and-distance-on-foot-and-horse/

Hope you get some use/enjoyment out of these!

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#2
This is good information.  Thanks for posting these! 😃

One thing that gets my goat in stories or in movies is how people are shown navigating terrain. A horse can only gallop for about fifteen minutes before it needs an hour rest. And whether on foot or on horse, travel time is about the same -- 25 miles per day. It's just that riding horseback is easier, and you can carry a bit more stuff. 

Horses need to spend almost half the day just eating, and they also sleep, so you can only ride for about six hours. Plus, they need grass or hay, or grain sometimes, if you have some. Depicting a horse running through the desert or in snow is unrealistic, because there's nothing there for them to eat. 

Plus a horse needs to drink about ten gallons of water a day. 

Riding a horse through the forest is also hard to do -- you'd probably get there faster (and safer!) if you walked -- and the horse would too. Riding horse at speed through the woods is a surefire way to have it break a leg, or get yourself concussed by a low-hanging branch. And forget about even so much as walking through a pine forest. The branches are thick and spiky, and hang low to the ground, so passage is impossible. 

One thing further, if I may, is people running through a cornfield. That just drives me nuts. The roots grow above ground, so tripping is inevitable, as you can't see your feet. Plus the leaves have sharp edges, and are as rough as a Brillo pad, so they'd cut you to ribbons. Even walking carefully, in about fifteen minutes your face and hands would hurt so much that you'd probably think letting that ax-murderer catch you wouldn't be so bad after all. 🤪

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#3

ArDeeBurger Wrote: One thing that gets my goat in stories or in movies is how people are shown navigating terrain. A horse can only gallop for about fifteen minutes before it needs an hour rest. And whether on foot or on horse, travel time is about the same -- 25 miles per day. It's just that riding horseback is easier, and you can carry a bit more stuff.


You know, it's interesting just how much shows and movies have skewed our perception of how people in the past travelled.

In Yuan and Ming Dynasty China, even for extremely urgent messages horses were not used. They had outposts every three miles, and had runners with bells attached to a belt. The runner at the next outpost would hear the bells and get ready to run. It was far faster and more efficient than using a horse, since they could run have someone running the message 24/7. And there were many regulations that determined how far you could legally travel on a horse in a day

Hopefully nobody makes a thread about armor and how useless swords actually were against it, otherwise I'd have far more to rant about

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#4

Senator Wrote: In Yuan and Ming Dynasty China, even for extremely urgent messages horses were not used. They had outposts every three miles, and had runners with bells attached to a belt. The runner at the next outpost would hear the bells and get ready to run. It was far faster and more efficient than using a horse, since they could run have someone running the message 24/7. And there were many regulations that determined how far you could legally travel on a horse in a day

Wow.  That is really cool info.  Thanks!

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#6

Oskatat Wrote: This may be part 'myth', but I heard somewhere that there are only a few animals in the world that can beat a human at long distance traveling on land, one of them being the Alaskan husky.

Yes. I have heard this too, about huskies.  Like, they can go for a hundred miles or more, and at a fast pace.  That's why they're used as sled dogs.

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#7

Oskatat Wrote: This may be part 'myth', but I heard somewhere that there are only a few animals in the world that can beat a human at long distance traveling on land, one of them being the Alaskan husky. Humans are excellent long-distance runners and some ancient hunting tactics were literally about running an animal to exhaustion before going in for the kill



Besides our mind and opposable thumbs, our endurance is one of the reasons humans [collectively] were able to survive.

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#8

Senator Wrote: In Yuan and Ming Dynasty China, even for extremely urgent messages horses were not used. They had outposts every three miles, and had runners with bells attached to a belt. The runner at the next outpost would hear the bells and get ready to run. It was far faster and more efficient than using a horse, since they could run have someone running the message 24/7. And there were many regulations that determined how far you could legally travel on a horse in a day

That's really interesting... Thanks for sharing!
Ankur_93 Wrote: Besides our mind and opposable thumbs, our endurance is one of the reasons humans [collectively] were able to survive.

Didn't know that opposable thumbs are that important. Guess you learn new things every day!

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#12

ArDeeBurger Wrote: One thing that gets my goat in stories or in movies is how people are shown navigating terrain. A horse can only gallop for about fifteen minutes before it needs an hour rest. And whether on foot or on horse, travel time is about the same -- 25 miles per day. It's just that riding horseback is easier, and you can carry a bit more stuff.

And galloping is hard on the body too because you have to light seat (hover) above the saddle to help the horse move. This is a killer on the legs after only a minute of galloping because not only are you essentially squatting the whole time, but your legs also have to act as shock absorbers/ suspension. Trotting is probably the easiest 'fast' gait for both horse and (experienced) rider to sustain for an extended period of time providing the rider isn't posting/ doing rising trot. Think of trotting as the horse's version of a human's jog.

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#14

JenifryConan Wrote: Trotting is probably the easiest 'fast' gait for both horse and (experienced) rider to sustain for an extended period of time providing the rider isn't posting/ doing rising trot. Think of trotting as the horse's version of a human's jog.

If you're writing medieval stories, you could include the ambling gait. Most horse breeds of today's age can't use it anymore, but it was a gait they were bred and trained for especially because it was fairly swift and comfortable for the rider. 

Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#19

Kerma Wrote:
Jahx Wrote: Overland travel through wooded terrain is about ten to fifteen miles a day.  If it is hilly or god forbid, mountainous, that number drops quickly.

Foot travel.  I've never ridden off roads and trails, except for pastures and fields, which don't really count.
Very useful number for me, but is that for foot-travel or horse-back riding? Or are the two mostly equal in wooded areas?


Re: Two articles on travel times pre modern transportation

#20
Another important figure is that in late medieval England, you could only go about 20 miles away from the nearest town. This is because once you've gone that far, you're almost guaranteed to be closer to the next town. 

Why that distance? Because the number that ArDeeBurger quoted at the beginning of this thread is pretty accurate. ArDeeBurger said it was a 25-mile range. This range is generally for a conditioned human being in flat terrain with minimal baggage and no adverse temperatures. This is not likely to be the case for your typical adventure story, so I normally recommend an average of 20 miles per day; the 25 would be for favorable conditions, while you can drop it to 15 for unfavorable. I've done this myself, though it was before I became handicapped. (And just consider for a moment what that really means. If you're traveling in a car at 60 miles an hour, that means that in the most favorable conditions you can get to someplace in 25 minutes that would take you a full day to walk.)

But why was it so important that towns are a maximum of 20 miles apart, outside of more inhospitable areas? Because unlike in the modern age, "town" wasn't a size designation. Towns were usually smaller than a good-sized villages -- except on market days. See, a "town" was a settlement that had a market. So if you wanted to sell goods you made, grew, or raised, you had to get it to a town. Towns weren't always in the best places to grow crops, catch fish, raise cattle, and so on. They were, however, in the best places to get lots of people to converge for trade. At minimum, a town is at a crossroads where two paths (literal roads, or a road and a navigable river, or a road and a natural harbor) meet. Since 20 miles is the best you can count on for travel while carrying goods to market, that's the maximum distance to the next town. No one planned it; it just happened as people spread out. 


Kerma Wrote:
Jahx Wrote: Overland travel through wooded terrain is about ten to fifteen miles a day.  If it is hilly or god forbid, mountainous, that number drops quickly.


Very useful number for me, but is that for foot-travel or horse-back riding? Or are the two mostly equal in wooded areas?



Equal. Depending on the forest, a horse can actually slow you down. Horses are designed for steppes, not wooded areas; do a visual comparison between an unshod horse hoof and a deer hoof sometime and you'll see some of why even if you're not good at comparative biology. A horse has one "toe," good for purchase on a flat plain and bursts of speed in a straight line. A deer has a cloven hoof, meaning it has two toes; this provides better purchase on uneven ground and for quick direction changes to go around trees. Go further up their legs and you can see that their bones and muscles are optimized for their respective terrain as well. 

(Incidentally, yes, this means that centaurs are better for open terrain; you'd have something that looks more like a deer body for the forest and a goat's body for the mountains. The Greeks knew this better than we do, too; in the original myths, the centaurs weren't forest creatures.)

Forests slowing you down is also why they're such a traditional place for "bad things" to happen. Aside from breaking your wagon on a tree root or throwing a shoe because your horse got spooked by a shadow, the slow pace you have to travel at combined with more places to hide meant it was easier for bandits to prey on travelers. Large forests meant people would build roads around them, and very rarely through them.