There are some gryphs that choose to take on the care of other animals and keep them as special companions, instead of just useful feed animals. These companions are well cared for, fed and protected, and in return reward their gryph with affection and sometimes other small benefits.
Types of companion animals Edit
Favored farm animals
The largest type of companion animals are farmed animals that the owner has taken a special liking to. This may be favored females who are more useful as milk-producers than meat, a large and healthy male that is best kept for stud, or simply any animal that the gryph has developed an affection for and can't bear to have eaten. Generally a farmer gryph is advised to care for all their animals but not develop too many close attachments, since after all, their main goal is to raise animals for food.
Horses and ponies
Each village keeps a small herd of ponies, primarily used for communication and transportation between all villages. These herds have been bred carefully to increase intelligence, speed, stamina, and relative strength while maintaining a small size. Ponies are smart enough to travel alone between villages once they have been trained, but do not have the Spark. Most frequently used to carry messages, medicines, dyes, and other trade goods in saddlebags, each pony travels only between two points (for example, an individual may travel between Eastdale Village and Leina Tundra, but would not travel to Vulpes Mori). Ponies travel between villages roughly once a week. Generally ponies will be sent from the entire village rather than individual gryphs. Very rarely, ponies will be used to transport elderly or injured gryphs. Currently, messenger ponies typically do not do any of the rare 'heavier' labor such as hauling timber for the Hunting the Sun bonfire. Breeding stock is used to attend those tasks, instead, as the messengers remain on 'standby' in case they are needed. This has the added bonus of keeping the breeding stock in shape. Each messenger herd has a primary caretaker, and additional work is handled by the Corvee.
A companion favored among farming regions are carnivorous birds. These birds can be trained to hunt rodents that get among crops, in order to both protect the crops and bring the rodents back to their gryphs for a supplementary food supply. Generally hawks and falcons are raised for this purpose, since eagles are too large to easily care for and owls do not take to the training well. Since they are carnivores, they can become aggressive, and like songbirds, it is taboo to confine them or tie them down. Therefore hunting birds must be raised very carefully to avoid behavioral problems.
One of the arguably most useful, but also most strange-looking, types of companion animals are imps. These small creatures superficially resemble Apes, in that they have nimble forepaws that are skilled at manipulating objects and walk upright on two legs, though they may run on all four for speed. They have a round head, wide eyes and long, pointed ears. They have compact bodies, long limbs, leathery skin and no tail. Imps are omnivores and in the wild are scavengers and foragers, so like pigs, they are happy to eat scraps leftover from food preparation and vegetables that have started to spoil. Most gryphs feed their imps a primarily vegetable diet, especially in the winter months when meat grows more scarce.
Imps lack the Spark but are quite intelligent for animals, and can be trained for a variety of tasks. They are curious and have a lot of energy, so if they are not provided with regular tasks, toys or other stimulation, they may grow bored or mischievous and get into things they shouldn't. They are skilled at climbing, retrieving objects, grooming gryphs and themselves (and will often eat any insects they find hiding in fur), and opening containers. They can be trained in the use of simple tools (bearing in mind the tools must be made small enough for them) and to tie or untie simple knots.
Imps are most common in the Tropical and Desert areas of Solterra and are rare even there. While they can be a great boon to those that are able to work with them, they can also be quite the trouble makers.
Some gryphs take small snakes, turtles or lizards as companions. These creatures cannot produce their own body heat and either need to bask in the sun or curl up on a friendly gryph for warmth. Therefore, these animals are generally only raised in the Vulpes Mori, since the area of Leina Tundra and Eastdale Village are too cold for them. While these reptiles come in many sizes and varieties, the ones kept as companions are the smaller, more docile kinds. Many reptile-handlers prefer varieties that eat insects, both because they help keep pests down, and because they do not eat small prey animals that gryphs might eat instead.
Possibly the most common type of companion animals are rodents. These usually include mice, rats and rabbits, but may include others depending on the region. Rodents are favored as companions for cubs and first-time animal caretakers because they are easy to care for and take up little space. Gryphs do need to be careful to keep track of their rodents, since many of them can squeeze into small spaces, dig, climb, or otherwise get into places they shouldn't. If a gryph is not vigilant, their rodent may get into food stores, consuming or spoiling valuable supplies. It is therefore advised that whenever they are not under a gryph's direct supervision they should be kept in a cage. Keep in mind that the rodent's dwelling must be large enough for it to move around comfortably, allow sufficient air in, and have a place for the rodent to hide. Rodents also chew hard materials constantly, and will need to be provided with pieces of wood for this purpose. If their cage is made of wood, it will need to be examined frequently to see if the rodent has chewed it, and repair any portions that may become weak enough to allow the rodent to slip out.
Rodents should be examined carefully to determine gender before they are housed with each other. Males of the same species will typically fight unless they have been together since their youth, and otherwise should be housed separately, though unrelated females can live together. A gryph should also ensure that males and females are not kept together unless the gryph wishes to breed them. Since rodents mate frequently and grow quickly, breeding them could potentially serve as a source of meat.
Fire salamanders are docile creatures that were easily domesticated and bred into many varieties. They can produce heat and light, and therefore have been bred into versions that make use of these traits. Some of them have been bred to produce a level of heat that's pleasing to gryphs, and therefore have medical uses. These can be laid on sore muscles in order to relax them and promote healing, or placed on chilled extremities in order to warm them. Other salamanders have been bred to produce a brighter light, in order to serve as a light source in gryph dens. All varieties also serve as a useful form of pest removal, since they naturally attract and consume flying insects.
Those gryphs who especially enjoy birdsong may raise songbirds. These are not easy companions to gain the care of, since many birds will not want or need companionship from a gryph. Birds must never be confined; it is well-known that birds must have the freedom to move in order to be happy, and a common saying is "The tied bird never sings." Therefore a gryph must encourage a bird to stay with them willingly, and may even raise birds from eggs in order to accustom the bird to staying in the company of a gryph. Nimble climbers, such as Armored Tree-Dwellers, may be called on to fetch bird eggs from a nest for someone who wishes to raise them. Those gryphs who raise birds often den in or under a tree, so that their birds may make nests in the branches. Sometimes a companion bird will take a mate and raise eggs of its own, providing a gryph with many bird-generations of companions.