by Robbie Fischer
The magical world is full of creatures that are half-this, half-that. And most of them are not things you would want to meet in a dark forest. Don’t even think about savage manticores and bloodthirsty chimeras, devious sphinxes or (gag me) blast-ended skrewts. No one would be sorry to see the back of them forever.
On the other hand, there can’t be many members of any given “magical species,” or else it would be very hard to conceal their existence from Muggles. Apparently the wizards’ ban on experimental breeding, and controls on the breeding of established species such as dragons, explains this in part. The wizards and witches of Britain keep pretty busy, holding down the population of magical creatures so that they can be the more easily hidden from Muggle witnesses. But as a result, they are purposely creating “endangered species.” Wouldn’t it be sad if these wonderful creatures died out? Manticores and chimeras excepted, of course…
Naturally, the first species that wizard environmentalists would rush to protect are the cute ones, like nifflers, and the useful ones, like house-elves. And maybe they would also try to provide more room for intelligent species to roam in, such as merpeople and centaurs. But with the spread of urban sprawl, advanced communications, and satellite imaging, the world is shrinking…and so are the number of potential “habitats” for these endangered, magical creatures!
If I had any pull with the Wizengamot, I would propose…well, not a solution, but maybe the beginning of one. Perhaps there are some species of magical creatures that the world is ready for. Perhaps under cover of “genetic engineering” or “cloning” or even exploring uncharted forests, we could introduce to the Muggle world species that were previously believed to exist only in myth and legend. And perhaps, if they were useful enough and likeable enough, the Muggle world would join in concern for their preservation.
I think the equestrian races-ones that have a bit of “horse” in them-are probably prime candidates for this program. Horses have been, historically, the most useful and accepted animal, most carefully bred and protected, most highly respected, and most nearly thought of as human, of all animals known to man. And until the internal combustion engine eclipsed the age of the horse and carriage, horses were always needed for their…er… horsepower. Maybe some of the specialized equestrian races, currently known only to wizards and witches, could raise the image of the horse again, and make it valuable and worthy of protecting for more and more reasons.
Of course the centaurs have no interest in human affairs, wizard or otherwise, but maybe it’s time to add their wisdom to the collective knowledge of our world. Maybe it’s time for mankind to hang up on the psychic hotline and plug in to the deeper celestial musings of these ancient, thoughtful beings. And they could probably find work, for instance, as Grand Canyon tour guides and park rangers, going where wheeled vehicles cannot go. It would be an economically sound idea, anyway. Unlike regular horses, they wouldn’t make any mess that they couldnt clean up themselves…
Then there are unicorns. I’m not saying anything so crass as to suggest raising them as a cash crop. But there are uses for their horns and tail hairs, and the field would be particularly open to women-a rare line of work in that regard, that promotes a young woman’s sense of self-worth, and also (if what they say is true) provides incentives for sexual abstinence. Anything so clearly innocent and defenseless needs care, and maybe if the public were better educated about unicorns, they would be safer from crass exploitation.
How about thestrals? They say that adopting a pet is good therapy. And some people find horse riding to be an especially helpful escape from everyday cares and pressures. Suppose we tried incorporating thestrals into grief counseling? Think of it as losing one thing, and gaining another in the process. Plus, a thestral corps could bring back the old Mounted Police, and give helicopters a run for their money.
But I think the species that especially needs protecting is the hippogriff. They aren’t people who can look out for themselves, like the centaurs. They aren’t protected by the same powerful magic as unicorns, and though they can fly to escape from predators and so forth, they don’t have the advantage of invisibility that thestrals have.
On the other hand, they would make much, much better pets than any of these other equestrian beasts. Just try suggesting to centaur that he become someone’s pet, or submit to a breeding program, or wear tags, etc. You probably wouldn’t live to try it again. As for unicorns, they simply wouldn’t be good with families, considering the high percentage of families that have male members. And while thestrals might be handy companions for people recovering from traumas (war veterans, widows, orphans, etc.) and possibly even blind people, they are unnerving for the many people who can’t see them, and carry the stigma of being considered unlucky.
Hippogriffs, on the other hand, have none of these disadvantages. Sure, they are fiercely proud, but if you handle them respectfully they are no more dangerous than any ordinary horse or giant eagle. Sure, they have a vast appetite for bird-of-prey type cuisine, but a rural setting (and even some urban ones) can provide ample sustenance for a free-range hippogriff. Sure, they make a BIG mess when they molt, and their claws and hooves are hard on carpets and polished surfaces, but who apart from wanted fugitives keeps their hippogriff inside a house anyway?
But consider the advantages of owning a hippogriff. Cowboys, for instance, would be able not only to ride around the edges of their herd, but could actually fly above them and thereby have greater control while gittin’ them li’l dogies along. Again, police and rescue personnel would be able to revive the Mountie concept (only without the stealth features of the thestral) and save tons of Diesels a year, compared to flying helicopters around. Riding schools would make tons of money selling lessons and rides to people who will now not only want to gallop along the ground, but soar over the countryside and even, perhaps, parachute down to the ground. This would be safer from the back of a hippogriff anyway, since your mount could catch you if your chute didn’t open. And besides, the riding schools would make more profit, since they would only spend half as much on horseshoes.
But hippogriffs are especially good pet material. You already know how dangerous they are if they are handled disrespectfully. Suppose you trained them to guard your family and property? No one would want to mess with them! Meanwhile, your children would learn good manners REALLY FAST, perhaps from painful (though, probably, quite harmless) experience. They wouldn’t soon be grieving for their deceased or lost pets, because (1) a hippogriff is not hard to find against any given background; (2) a hippogriff only has to fly a little higher to see home; and (3) hippogriffs live longer than dogs and cats, and probably don’t have as many natural enemies, at least none that will trouble them twice. Also, hippogriffs have ways of avoiding moving vehicles that dogs and cats do not. Really, choosing any other pet is merely gambling with a broken heart. Unlike many dogs and cats, hippogriffs “know how to take care of themselves.”
I’m sure the discerning breeder and connoisseur will be intrigued by the different breeds and varieties of hippogriffs, just as there are different kinds of eagles and horses. Whether purchasing your hippogriff for the family or for the business, you can get exactly the kind you want, and breed them for the traits you desire. And if you are ever captured by an evil wizard and locked in a topless tower, you will be thankful for the faithful hippogriff-companion who comes to your rescue.
If all else fails, you can turn your hippogriff into a racing steed. Imagine the effect wings would have on the Races!
I think the time has come for the Muggle world to become acquainted with the wonderful stock animal, working animal, and potential household pet known as the hippogriff. There may be no other way to save this noble, beautiful creature from extinction. If the wizarding world plays its cards right, this could be a revelation that Muggles can actually accept-and more than accept: embrace!
Robbie Fischer, Arizona USA