In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hagrid says to Harry about Buckbeak:

Give him a nice bow. Then you wait and see if he bows back.

In this footage, we see people approaching a shoebill in the same manner:

Was JK Rowling inspired by the shoebill when she created Buckbeak?

  • I hope someone here has an actual answer, but, personally, the whole "bowing to a supernatural creature" thing reminded me of the kappa (as reported in "The Usborne Guide to the Supernatural" (which is currently out of print, but there is a current petition to bring it back!).
    – Pam
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 14:34
  • A lot of birds use bowing displays for various kinds of social signalling, it isn't unique to shoebills. For example this page says 'Male Mourning Doves may bow repeatedly and then lift their heads and coo when defending their territories' and also 'Pairs of adult Adelie Penguins do bowing displays and exchange vocal greetings at "changings of the guard," thus making large colonies extremely noisy'. For another ex. see the albatross courtship displays at youtube.com/watch?v=YvpHBALOCAI&t=50s
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 16:16
  • @Hypnosifl That sounds like the makings of a good answer. You might consider posting it as one. It would only be speculation, but it could indicate that JK Rowling based her depiction of the hippogriff on the behavioral patterns of other types of birds.
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 18:19

1 Answer 1


Buckbeak is a hippogriff, a mythological creature that first appeared in the 16th century in the Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Rowling may have invented the name 'Buckbeak' but she didn't invent hippogriffs.

Hippogriffs are hybrids of horses and eagles, so I'm not sure where you'd get shoebill, except maybe for the tuft of feathers on the crown of head. Buckbeak, as he appears in the films, more resembles a harpy eagle.

enter image description here

In the book he is appears thusly: enter image description here

  • 15
    I think the questioner is concerned with the bowing behavior, rather than the physical appearance. Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 14:17

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