I have created semi-intelligent griffins in my fantasy world. Semi-intelligent meaning that adult griffins have the intelligence of an average 4 year old human.

Now, I realized that once the griffins are discovered by intelligent races (humans, dwarves, elves), their intelligence would most likely be abused and they would be bred for the mundane tasks of a medieval world.

So, my question is how could I prevent the abuse from happening while griffins still get discovered by the more intelligent races.

My failed solutions:

  • To make the griffins too hungry will not work as they consume only as much as 10 kg of flesh per day. (which is way too efficient for what they could be employed for)
  • Letting the griffins chose their Human/Dwarf/Elf counterpart doesn't work because one owner could start traveling to an area where the Griffin can not support itself from hunting and as such cannot escape domestication.
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Ab"used or simply used? When you say abused, you imply an axiology, a scale of values. Is this axiology in-universe, or are you imposing your ethics on the characters of the narrative universe? Would the griffins themselves perceive their service as abuse? Would the elves perceive the use of griffins as abuse? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Abused in used against the will of the griffin. And the axiology is in-universe. $\endgroup$
    – Soan
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 18:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The "will" of a four year old child? Isn't it extremely malleable? Cannot the elves educate the griffins to become loyal servants? I mean, animal power and animal services were essential to human civilization during a large part of our history; successfully using animal power and services implies co-operation with said animals. And some of our animals, for example dogs and possibly horses, do have the level of intelligence indicated in the question. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 18:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "It has been surmised, that perhaps, my lord had become like a wild animal that had been kept too long. Perhaps, but whatever... freedom... so long an unremembered dream, was his." – Conan the Barbarian 1982. (cannot haz adult griffin, otherwise they will take from you the three things that are best in life) $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 23:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ an interesting bit is that ... if you look at animals on Earth, different cultures consider them differently. so one culture might come and abuse them, another might not. like some people eat Dogs for food, some people wouldnt dream of it. some people's eat Cows, some consider them sacred. etc etc $\endgroup$
    – don bright
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 8:13

2 Answers 2


Griffins are crazy fierce.

There are lots of animals which would be useful domestic animals but which were not domesticated. Zebras, for example - they are built like horses, so why not? This synopsis of Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel lists the qualities an animal must have for it to be successfully domesticated.


  1. Not picky eaters. Ideally not competing with the humans for the same sorts of food.

  2. Reach maturity quickly. Although elephants would seem to violate that rule.

  3. Breeds in captivity. Again the elephants break that rule.

  4. Docile by nature. This is the one that applies to zebras, Cape buffalo, American bison etc. They are bad of ass and tend to get mean.

  5. Not panicky.

Numbers 1 and 4 could apply to griffins. Maybe 2 also; see below. For interest in your story, you could have the fierceness kick in at puberty. You see lots of images of people cuddling and playing with baby bears, baby tigers etc. Less so when they grow up, because one grouchy day for the tiger means no more cuddling forever. Dingos are like this somehow - even though they look just like dogs and are sweet as puppies, they are untamable as adults.

If griffins mature slowly, your nobles could have baby griffins as house pets. The pups are not abused because they are prestige pets and then are put down when they grow out of their cuteness. This also is another path to domestication - via neoteny. This is most famously demonstrated in the case of domesticated red foxes. At a Russian fur farm, foxes which were less fierce were kept as breeders and the fierce ones used for fur. Over the generations the foxes got more and more puppy like and less and less fierce. They are bred to be tame animals. There are popular videos of these charming tame foxes.

domestic fox

If your story can use it, you could have the same process with your griffins - the tame ones are like overgrown pups and physically different (and smarter) than their wild cousins. The few rare adults which are tame are too valuable to be abused - they are intelligent and formidable companions, and also used in the hope of breeding more like them.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Disposition, +1. I suppose they might act like the Golden Eagles used to hunt wolves (warning: the eagles are not the ones being "abused"); maybe these you can ride until they're about to become adults. After which you set them free or they'll eat your face. (that's the reason I presume those hunters have to let them go eventually) And you don't see widespread mistreatment of the hawk population... these would have claws the size of your head, not just your hand. - That reminds me: New Stable Master Wanted! $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 22:52

If the griffins are useful to the other species, they'll be exploited for that usefulness. So your task is to come up with ways they are not useful.

  • As food.
  • For pulling carts or pushing wheels and other brute force tasks.
  • For riding.
  • As scouts or to detect something before the humanoids can.
  • For herding or help with other animals.
  • As service animals (for people with disabilities or just to help with tasks).
  • As pets aka companion animals.

Or you need to make them very useful in one or more of the above choices where they are valued and not abused and not removed from their family units (which is what I assume you mean by breeding them being abusive).

For example, griffins can be trained to perform certain tasks but are too strong-willed to capture and force to do anything. Griffin communities teach their children never become a slave, even if it means you are beaten or killed for it. They have enough intelligence to understand the societal costs of giving in to slavery.

So the humanoids have given up and now hire griffins for work, or offer them live-in positions like a "domestic" human (think Downton Abbey).

This is more likely in cases where the first species to "discover" the griffin are already enlightened that slavery is evil. It is less likely in cases where the species either exploits or murders others they consider lessor (historical point is when European colonists in the Americas tried to enslave the native peoples, they got so much pushback that they stopped trying to enslave them...and just murdered huge percentages of them instead).

It's your world so you can decide how each species acts. If the first peoples to encounter the griffin come up with a mutually beneficial work agreement, it's likely to stick. More so if the humanoid species fights for their workers.


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