|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (December 2010)|
The hippogriff is a legendary creature which resembles a winged horse with the head and upper body of an eagle and the back legs of a goat. The concept of the hippogriff may be derived from the Simorgh of Persian mythologies, which is related to the griffin.
The first recorded mention of the hippogriff was made by the Latin poet Virgil in his Eclogues. Though sometimes depicted during the Classical Era and during the rule of the Merovingians, it was first named and defined by Ludovico Ariosto in his Orlando Furioso, at the beginning of the 16th Century. In this epic poem, written in the tradition of the Matter of France, the Hippogriff is a steed born naturally of a mare and a griffin. This creature is extremely fast and able to fly around the world. It is ridden by magicians and noble heroes, such as the wandering knight Roger, who, from the creature’s back, frees the beautiful Angelica. Due to the success of Ariosto’s narrative, the concept and name of the Hippogriff appear in other works of the same genre.
Sometimes depicted on heraldic coats of arms, the Hippogriff became a subject of visual art in the 19th Century, when it was often drawn by Gustave Doré. Like many legendary creatures, the Hippogriff has experienced a resurgence of popularity in modern works, especially in the realms of role-playing games and video games, as well as in fantasy novels.
The word Hippogriff, also spelled Hippogryph and Hippogryphe is an Anglicisation of the Italian ippogrifo, which was used by Ariosto in 1516. This name is derived from the Ancient Greek ἵππος /híppo, meaning “horse,” and the Italian grifo meaning “griffin” (from Latin gryp or gryphus), which denotes another mythical creature, with the head of an eagle and body of a lion, that is purported to be the father of the hippogriff. The word hippogriff was adopted into English shortly before 1615.
Early references 
- no fiction wrought 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:
|“||Like a griffin, it has the head of an eagle, claws armed with talons, and wings covered with feathers, the rest of its body being that of a horse. This strange animal is called a Hippogriff. the hippogriff is said to be an evil spirit resting and possessing its soul in that of a horse and griffon.||”|
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. The hippogriff, in legends is said to be far faster, stronger and more intelligent than their fathers, the griffin, apparently traveling at the "speed of lightning". This was supposedly inspired by Virgil's Eclogues: ... 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.
Beliefs and symbolism 
According to Vidal, a Catalan historian, this creature was supposed to live near Céret, in the County of Roussillon of modern-day France, during the Middle Ages. Claw marks were found on a rock near Mas Carol. The belief in the existence of the hippogriff, such as Ariosto describes, is fiercely attacked in a scientific essay on religion in 1862, which argues that such an animal can neither be a divine creation, nor truly exist. The hippogriff is supposed to be a mixture of several animals and the author notes that in order to support its weight, the wings would be so heavy that flight would be impossible, which proves—without question—that it does not exist.
Sightings of a creature like the hippogriff—and named as such—were reported by several witnesses around Lake George. The story originated as a hoax in 1904, which claimed that a great leviathan or hippogriff was spotted in the peaceful New York State lake. The tricksters used a fake “monster” with the head of a bird of prey, teeth, and two large horse ears, which could be controlled from below. The multiple appearances of the monster scared the locals and popularized the rumour of the existence of a creature named “The Hippogriff” in the lake. The story was gradually forgotten, but resurfaced around 1999, when several people staying at the Island Harbour House Hotel confirmed they had seen a sea monster at night. After some research, the old hoax was uncovered by the Daily News and the Lake George Historical Association Museum, which created an imperfect copy of the original fake wooden monster to display to the public in August 2002. Hippogriffs are also often seen in the Harry Potter series, such as one owned by Hagrid named Buckbeak.
- (French)Complément du Dictionnaire de l'Académie française.
- (Sevestre & Rosier 1983, pp. 16–17)
- (Wagner 2006, p. 124)
- "Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary".
- (French)(Bo i Montégut 1978, p. 219)
- (French)Poulin, Paulin (1862). In A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven et al. Qu'est-ce que l'homme ? Qu'est-ce que Dieu ? Solution scientifique du problème religieux. p. 223.
- (English) Radford, Benjamin; Nickell, Joe (2006). Lake monster mysteries: investigating the world's most elusive creatures. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 101–109. ISBN 9780813123943.
- Media related to Hippogriff at Wikimedia Commons