Griffins (sometimes spelled “gryphons”) are magical creatures, part lion, part eagle. They originated in India, where they guarded huge treasures of gold. In the third century AD a historian named Aelian wrote:
I have heard that the Indian animal the Gryphon is a quadruped like a lion; that it has claws of enormous strength and that they resemble those of a lion. Men commonly report that it is winged and that the feathers along its back are black, and those on its front are red, while the actual wings are neither but are white.
Griffin, from the seal of an Austrian town, about 1315.
In Alice in Wonderland, Alice meets the Gryphon, who is anything but fierce. He and the Mock Turtle tell Alice about their old school days and teach her an unusual dance, the Lobster Quadrille.
And Ctesias [an ancient Greek historian] records that its neck is variegated with feathers of a dark blue; that it has a beak like an eagle’s, and a head too, just as artists portray it in pictures and sculpture. Its eyes, he says, are like fire.It builds its lair among the mountains. Although it is not possible to capture the full-grown animal, hunters do take the young ones. Gryphons engage too with other beasts and overcome them without difficulty, but they will not face the lion or the elephant.
source: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter