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In the Half-blood Prince, Dumbledore meets Harry at the Dursley's to tell him about all the things Sirius has left to him, which includes Buckbeak.

I was surprised reading this, because I thought Buckbeak was owned by Hogwarts (assuming that an animal can be owned by somebody), and that Sirius was kind of borrowing it.

Is there any evidence in the books or anywhere else that Buckbeak was eventually Sirius' hippogriff?

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    When MoM gave it death sentence and its death time passed, it stopped being property of Hogwarts. Talking about Sirius's ownership, maybe it has to do with a wild animal liking someone. – Lobo Dec 18 '17 at 11:22
  • That makes sense, but the MoM could not kill it since it disappeared before its execution, so I believe it would still be officially Hogwarts' – dounyy Dec 18 '17 at 11:25
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    Dumbledore kinda gave him away to Sirius as an escape vehicle. – Don_Biglia Dec 18 '17 at 14:16
  • @dounyy Technically, I think, Hogwarts can claim, but then it has to be executed (as far as I can recall, it was never mentioned in the book that MoM withdrew the execution order). So it's likely that Hogwarts (read, Dumbledore) withheld the claim, and that's what makes Buckbeak a property of Sirius. (It's a speculation from my part.) – Krish Dec 18 '17 at 14:29
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    Bequeathing a living creature isn't just a matter of "Here, have my stuff"; it's also "Here, taking care of this animal is your job now, good luck." – MissMonicaE Dec 18 '17 at 18:05
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The case of Buckbeak is quite complicated because its ownership was not officially transfered. At the beginning of "Prisoner of Azkaban" it belonged to Hogwarts. At the end of a school year it was stolen by Harry and Hermione and given to Sirius who then possessed Buckbeak for the next two years. This was encouraged by Dumbledore the Headmaster of Hogwarts, because of two reasons:

  1. Buckbeak would be executed by Ministry of Magic if it stayed at Hogwarts,
  2. Dumbledore wanted to help Sirius escape the castle.

So we can tell that de iure Buckbeak still belonged to Hogwarts as a lost property, but de facto it belonged to Sirius, as Dumbledore secretly gave the animal to him.

Later, at the beginning of "Half Blood Prince" Dumbledore tells Harry:

Sirius’s will was discovered a week ago and that he left you everything he owned.

As no special clauses are mentioned we can assume that Sirius's will contained only this one sentence. As Buckbeak was at Sirius's house and he had been taking care of it, someone else must take the hippogriff. Dumbledore said that now it belonged to Harry:

There is also the matter of the hippogriff, Buckbeak. Hagrid has been looking after him since Sirius died, but Buckbeak is yours now, so if you would prefer to make different arrangements —”

With this sentence Dumbledore confirmed his previous (not explicit) will that Buckbeak belonged to Sirius. He also proposes that the school reclaims the hippogriff but with a different name, so the ownership issue is closed and Buckbeak belongs both de facto and de iure to Hogwarts, but using a different name (Witherwings) and pretending it is another animal. As Harry accepts this offer, the issue of ownership is solved by gentleman's agreement between two people who might claim it: Harry (inheritor of Sirius) and Dumbledore (Headmaster of Hogwarts).

4

When Sirius flew away on Buckbeak and Buckbeak couldn't return because he would get killed, he kind of naturally became Sirius's Hippogriff and then just seemed to stay that way, given that it is always Sirius who Harry sees going to feed Buckbeak (Witherwings) later on.

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This is a legal technicality.

According to Sirius's will, he gave Harry everything he owned. As far as the Ministry is concerned, that includes everything in Sirius's possession at the time of his death that has no other claimants. Perhaps, if someone would come forward and claim that the hippogriff was stolen and did not actually belong to Sirius, the Ministry would have to investigate and eventually determine it's true ownership.

In this case, neither Hogwarts nor Hagrid would make a claim for the hipppogriff, because in order to do so they would have to admit that this hippogriff has an outstanding death sentence against it. So from the Ministry's perspective, Buckbeak was simply a hippogriff found in Sirius's possession, and thus assumed his unless proven otherwise, and from Dumbledore's and Hagrid's perspective (they have to pretend that) Buckbeak is not their long-lost hippogriff.

So Dumbledore plays along with the mistaken notion that Buckbeak should belong to Sirius, knowing that Harry will give it right back to Hagrid anyway. Now everyone's happy: the Ministry has successfully executed a will; Hagrid and Dumbledore got Buckbeak back; and Harry got a hippogriff off his hands.

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