During the 16th century in particular, very large parts of most Ottoman armies were made up of Akinci light cavalry, as covered in other RedBox sets, but these were motivated by plunder and so not easy to control. Instead, Bosnian and Semendire provincial governors raised their own light cavalry units during the 15th century, to help protect the border, and these were known as Deli (various English spellings are used). They were irregulars rather than a core part of the Ottoman Army, and many served as personal retinue for governors, most famously by the Bosnian governor Gazi Husrev-beg, who employed 10,000 of them during the 16th century. Originally they were volunteers raised in the Balkans and were converts to Islam, but their better discipline and loyalty made them an elite of light horsemen, and when the Akinci were virtually wiped out in 1595 the Deli remained, forming an important part of any Ottoman Army operating in Europe.
Their duties were the usual ones for light cavalry anywhere, but their fame came in large measure from their extraordinary appearance. Their name means brave, dare-devil or literally crazy, and they enhanced this fearsome image with the most fantastical dress, designed to put fear in the hearts of all who saw them. Elaborate headdresses might be decorated with eagle feathers or plumes, and they are recorded as wearing cloaks of animal skins, mainly leopard and bear, but also lion! All the figures in this set have unique and very elaborate caps with the kind of ostentatious decoration we would expect of such men, and all have full animal pelts as cloaks too (what animal we cannot say, but the dot effect on them would suggest leopard). As light cavalry they wear no armour, but normal clothes underneath the cloak, and in life must have given the dazzling Polish Hussars a run for their money in the fashion stakes.
Their weapons were also described as being particularly fearsome, but those here are more conventional, though no less appropriate. Four carry straight swords, one an axe and one a lance, all of which are perfectly suitable, although the lance could also have been given some decoration. Note that the swords are straight rather than the scimitar because these were originally of Eastern-European origin, and this was also the reason for the interesting shape of the shield. Five of the six poses here have the angular shield usually associated with Hungarian and Croatian horsemen, and following on from a reported Deli tradition, all have a large eagle feather nailed to them. Clearly these were dark days if you were a leopard or an eagle, but what a sight these men must have been! The sixth man carries a more traditional round shield with nothing nailed to it, which is also perfectly reasonable.
Naturally the display did not stop with the man, and their mounts too were often highly decorated. Each of the four animals here has a plume at the throat, but the overwhelming feature is the full animal pelt being used as a saddle cloth by all. The texture on these suggests bear and leopard again, which is good. The rearing pose is the only one not at full gallop, so as so often if you are looking for horses walking or standing then you will not find them here. The emphasis is on the dramatic charge, and it is likely to be tricky finding horses with similar decoration from other sources if you want something less energetic. One feature not found here is the long sword slung from the saddle by the left foot, but it is unclear how common this fearsome weapon was. Nevertheless the horses are accurately done, as are their riders.
The two poses with ring hands are very good, and the rest are okay but a bit flat, as so many cavalry poses tend to be. However we have seen far worse, and most people are likely to find them more than adequate, although we did worry about the first figure in the second row, apparently resting his sword on the neck of his horse. The main anatomical problem is, inevitably, with the position of the shields. Again a common problem, but most are not shielding themselves with it, and the two holding theirs upside down seem a bit odd too.
The sculpting is generally very good, with nice crisp detail on these highly intricate subjects. The feathers and animal skins are particularly nicely done, and the men fit their horses pretty well too. The lance is nice and long (45mm = 3.24 metres) yet slender, and fits the ring hand tightly but securely. The separate sword has not been thought through, however, because it has the perfectly correct curved pommel at the end of the hilt, which of course means it cannot be forced into the ring hand. You have to trim it back or split the hand, which is not a big issue, but a silly error by the designer. Despite that, these are attractive figures and horses, and we found almost no flash, so a largely neat job.
With so many sets of Ottoman troops now available in the hobby, a set of these extravagant horsemen is a great addition. Their spectacular appearance may offer a challenge to some painters, and there are some aspects we liked less well (like the absence of sedate horses), but overall we thought this was an excellent set that is something of a refreshing change from all those sets of perfectly uniformed soldiers we normally find ourselves reviewing.