A Hippogriff (also spelled Hippogryph and Hippogryphe) is a legendary creature, supposedly the offspring of a griffin and a mare. Ludovico Ariosto's poem, Orlando furioso (1516) contains an early description (canto IV):
No empty fiction wrought by magic lore,
But natural was the steed the wizard pressed;
For him a filly to griffin bore;
Hight hippogryph. In wings and beak and crest,
Formed like his sire, as in the feet before;
But like the mare, his dam, in all the rest.
Such on Riphaean hills, though rarely found,
Are bred, beyond the frozen ocean's bound.
Drawn by enchantment from his distant lair,
The wizard thought but how to tame the foal;
And, in a month, instructed him to bear
Saddle and bit, and gallop to the goal;
And execute on earth or in mid air,
All shifts of manege, course and caracole;
He with such labour wrought. This only real,
Where all the rest was hollow and ideal.
According to Thomas Bulfinch's Legends of Charlemagne:
The reason for its great rarity is that griffins regard horses as prey. It has been suggested this idea was strong enough in medieval times to produce an expression, "to mate griffins with horses", which meant about the same as the modern expression, "When pigs fly". The hippogriff was therefore a symbol of impossibility and love. This was supposedly inspired by Virgil's Ecologues: ... mate Gryphons with mares, and in the coming age shy deer and hounds together come to drink.., which would also be the source for the reputed medieval expression, if indeed it was one.
Among the animal combat themes in Scythian gold adornments may be found griffins attacking horses.
The hippogriff seemed easier to tame than a griffin. In the few medieval legends when this fantastic creature makes an appearance, it is usually the pet of either a knight or a sorcerer. It makes an excellent steed, being able to fly as fast as lightning. The hippogriff is said to be an omnivore, eating either plants or meat.
Another description of the Hippogriff can be found in Arnold Sundgaard's poem, The Hippogriff:
When Mare and Griffin meet and mate
Their offspring share a curious fate.
One half is Horse with hooves and tail,
The rest is Eagle, claws and nail.
As a Horse it likes to graze
In summer meadows doused in haze,
Yet as an Eagle it can fly
Above the clouds where dreams drift by.
With such a Beast I am enthralled,
The Hippogriff this beast is called.
Hippogriffs in art and popular culture
Hippogriffs feature in:
- Don Quixote, in which the title character's horse Rocinante is said to be faster than Astolfo's hippogriff.
- Agesilan of Colchos, a sequel to Amadis of Gaul, published in the 1530s.
- Ambrose Bierce's satiric "The Devil's Dictionary" (1911; before "The Cynic's Word Book", 1906):
"HIPPOGRIFF, n. An animal (now extinct) which was half horse and half griffin. The griffin was itself a compound creature, half lion and half eagle. The hippogriff was actually, therefore, a one-quarter eagle, which is two dollars and fifty cents in gold. The study of zoology is full of surprises."
- Eric Rücker Eddison's 1922 novel The Worm Ouroboros.
- Many role-playing games . In the Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons, the hippogriff is the heraldic beast of the dragonmarked House Vadalis.
- Various books of Piers Anthony's Xanth series, most notably Xap Hippogriff.
- In the Digimon Frontier movie HippoGryphomon is the leader of the beast Digimon.
- The Super Nintendo video game Demon's Crest, which has a winged miniboss referred to as a hippogriff.
- The PC game series Warcraft, as a flying combat unit of the Night Elves in Warcraft III and as player transportation in World of Warcraft
- The MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, roaming in areas added in the Chains of Promathia and Wings of the Goddess expansions.
- The Harry Potter series, particularly a hippogriff named Buckbeak [aka Witherwings] that is owned by Hagrid and Sirius Black and befriends Harry. Hagrid explains that hippogriffs are very calm, powerful giants, but are touchy creatures and demand respect. One must bow and keep eye contact before approaching. The film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire features Jarvis Cocker singing a song called "Do the Hippogriff".
- The video game for the Sony PlayStation, which has a hippogriff as a boss.
- The Lake George Monster hoax.
- Warhammer Fantasy Battles, as a monstrous mount available to the army of Bretonnia.
- The Magic City (novel), by Edith Nesbit in which the two main characters ride around on hippogriff
- Heraldry, in which the hippogriff figures (rarely) as a charge.
- The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, in the chapter "Mahound"
- Mentioned in Herman Melville's Moby Dick in Chapter LV, "Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales" (courtesy of Ben Jones).
- In the video game Suikoden II, hippogriffs sometimes appear as enemies in random battles while in Rockaxe Castle.
- In the Circe chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses, the apparition of Leopold Bloom's grandfather likens a woman's exhibitionism to a Hippogriff's prideful strutting.
- In the comic book series Sandman by Neil Gaiman, one of the three gatekeepers of the Lord Dreams domain is a Hippogriff.