Alternately spelled gryphon, though some historical records seem to suggest slight differences between a griffin and a gryphon. (Other alternate spellings also exist.)
The griffin is a carnivorous mythical beast whose forebody consists of that of an eagle or a hawk and whose hindbody is that of a lion's. Depending on what sources are used, the griffin dined primarily on horses or men.
Griffins were said to be enormous, either as strong as eight lions or as big as eight of them. They were also, apparently, stupid, because men wishing to go to a griffin's riches-lined nest without actually facing the dangers only had to hermetically seal themselves inside an animal carcass and wait to be carried away. Once in the griffin's nest, the men could break out of the skins and kill the griffin for its treasure. Griffins hoarded treasure much the same way dragons did. However, unlike dragons, griffins came to symbolize the guarding of spiritual (and, more modernly, astral) treasures.
Despite our familiarity with the European griffin, the griffin's origins probably lie in the Orient. People traveling to Rome or Greece often reported escaping the clutches of these vicious chimerical birds. Others claimed the griffins came from the North, on the edge of the world where the Hyperboreans lived.
Griffins were not confined to one culture. They featured in eastern culture as the Senmurv and the Simurgh. Both of them were primarily middle eastern/Syrian.
The Senmurv had the forebody, head, and front paws of a dog. It had a splendid peacock tail and wings. It was said to guard the Tree of Life. When it landed on the Tree of Life, it would scatter seeds from it. The seeds cured disease and suffering. While not much is known about the Senmurv, it figured strongly in at least one important national myth.
The Simurgh was very similar to the Senmurv and some believe the two are the same creature. The Simurgh has the forebody of a predatory bird and a long, serpents tail, as well as feathered wings.