Furry

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Synonyms: furrydom, furridom, fur fandom, furdom, furries, anthros
See also: Kemono, Fursuit, Feral (fandom), Yiff, Autism and Fandom, Cringe
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Furry refers to a type of anthropomorphic animal character and also to fans of them. The typical furry character walks on two legs, wears clothes, talks and thinks like a human and lives in a human-like society; animals who meet some of these qualities but not all may or may not be considered furry. The word "furry" is not strictly literal- birds and lizards may be considered furry although they do not have fur.

Fandom

The furry fandom is markedly different than Media fandom in many ways. While furries are certainly influenced by commercial works by Disney and others, the fandom is centered around Original Work and Original Characters rather than any specific canon. The fandom's main forms of expression are visual arts and fursuiting, rather than fanfiction as in media fandom. Furry conventions are popular and furries have their own economy, which has been described as socialist[1] and punk[2] by Dogpatch Press, a popular furry news outlet. These values and differences have led some to question whether furry is even a "fandom" at all. Per a Twitter discussion:

I think one of the reasons I find the furry fandom so appealing and cool is that it facilitates an identity around creation instead of consumption. It feels more like a community than a result of a good marketing campaign.Orcanist
This is kind of why I don't like when people consider it a fandom. Because it's not. Yeah there are mainstream media things that we enjoy but the furry community is not built around any intellectual property. It's not the same thing as the Star Trek fandom or broniesBigDragonien
Been saying this for years. My husband and I always compare furry cons to Renn Faires rather than comic book conventions.ifritz111
I’ve been saying this for years! The furry fandom is essentially the only fandom which entirely creates its own thing to represent itself around rather than being bound to existing media (comics, Star Trek, game of thrones whatever)shuyomondai
This is amazing. And pretty much says a ton why i feel disconnected to other fandoms and their conventions: Its never about us, the fans or the topic we are fan of. Like you said, its just an extension of a sucessful marketing campaign.cvictorrosso
That would explain why I tend to hover around the periphery of the fandom without ever actually taking the plunge as of yet. Creating isn’t really all that fun to me— I’m more about analyzing. Not that either is inherently any worse or better, of course!__RoyGBiv__
It's great. The creative focus is strong enough that even when something big comes along that should win furries, like Zootopia, it barely makes a ripple in the original content. We can't be converted.sixfoot_ant

Studies of furry fandom show that they tend to have many differences from media fandom and mainstream society. While media fandom is often seen as a female hobby, furries are 80% male.[3] It is also sometimes said that furries are usually gay, but the studies are mixed on this. Vox reports that less than 30% of furries are "exclusively heterosexual."[4] Up to 15% of furries are autistic.[5] Furries are also said to frequently work in IT; a common running joke among artists is that commissions by rich furries pay their mortgages or rent- the joke usually involves said furries in IT, or furries who are doctors or pilots. Overall, furries seem to have some demographic similarities to bronies.

A furry is an anthropomorphic animal, that is an animal having some of the characteristics of a human; like being able to walk on two legs, speak human languages, use tools etc. Many cartoon characters are furries: Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, etc. And they make frequent appearances in childrens' literature such as the works of Beatrix Potter. They are not just a recent phenomenon either; furries also appear in Shakespeare and Aesop's fables, and in darker works like The Island of Dr. Moreau, Animal Farm, and every werewolf novel written. Fans of furry art & literature often refer to themselves as furries too. Online they typically assume furry identities, and have furry characters on role-playing systems like MUDs/MUCKs. For some of these furries, there is a deeper connection that goes beyond appreciation of artwork and stories. This can include concepts such as totemism and spiritual theriantropy. Whatever fuels their fascination with these animal-human hybrids, furries often have social gatherings - sharing stories, ideas, and art and generally having fun.[6]

Fursona

Furries make fursonas, who are characters they use to represent themselves in some way. A fursona does not have to have a similar personality to the creator; in fact, they are sometimes purposely different. A shy furry might create an out-going fursona, for instance. Fursonas are often assumed to be self-inserts, and while they can be that, they are usually more like alter-egos used for various forms of role-playing. There is some discourse on whether a fursona is necessary to be a furry; some self-identified furries may not have one, while others may have more than one. Sometimes a fursona is "retired" when the artist does not want to use it anymore.

Canines - specifically huskies, wolves and foxes- are the most common fursona species. Dragons and felines are also extremely popular. According to at least one study, different demographics are more likely to choose different animals. Straight furries are more likely to be wolves and gay furries are more likely to be huskies, for example. Men are more likely to be red foxes and women are more likely to be arctic foxes.[7]

Terminology

  • Scaly: a term for furries with scales, such as dragons, lizards, dinosaurs, snakes, etc.
  • Ferals are animals with more physically realistic body types. They usually walk on all fours, but they may speak, wear clothes or speak. Ferals are sometimes seen as separate from furry rather than falling under the umbrella.
  • Original Species: An original species is one created by an artist, rather than simply based on an actual animal. They are Original Characters more often than fursonas.
  • Popufur: A popular fursuiter, a furry Big Name Fan.

History

While humans have been drawing and dressing up as animals for millennia, the modern furry fandom is said to have begun in the 1970s or so, emerging with influence from the Science Fiction Fandom, Western Comics fandom, as well as animation by Disney, Osamu Tezuka, Chuck Jones, Don Bluth, and others.

One influential comic strip is Fritz the Cat[8] which began in 1965 and encouraged the creation of a zine called Vootie, which is posited as the beginning of furry fandom in "Everyone's A Furry 2k16" by Colin Spacetwinks.

Vootie.png
Furry, as we currently understand and picture it, doesn't really exist until 1976, with the creation of a zine called Vootie, by Reed Waller and Ken Fletcher. It called itself the "Fanzine of the Funny Animal Liberation Front" - and that's a little marker of history itself. The term 'furry' to characterize the community and its art output hadn't quite come into usage yet. It's all "funny animal", taking off from the name of the genre itself, featuring characters like Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, et all. You know 'em.

Here's the cover of Vootie issue 0, give you a feel for where things were at the very start - more or less - of this whole group.

Didn't expect Spock as a talking ape, did ya?

Here's a fun - and important - piece of furry history for you. Artist Taral Wayne says he sent a letter to the editor, Reed Waller, asking "why isn't there more sex in funny animals?".

Waller's response was to publish the very start of Omaha The Cat Dancer in issue #8 of Vootie.

Never heard of Omaha, you say?[9]
Omaha The Cat Dancer 1.jpg

Omaha the Cat Dancer is a soap opera comic which was condemned by law enforcement in the United States, Canada and New Zealand, based on claims of depicting bestiality.[10] This led to the creation of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The term "furry" began to be used in the 1980s and, according to one account, was coined by a non-furry who called himself Doctor Pepper, though there is not enough documentation to be certain of the term's origins. Furry conventions had their start as "Furry Parties" inside singular rooms of larger science fiction cons. Furries were often treated badly at these cons, accused of being gay and/or zoophilic. One post from Baycon reads:

Skunk F KERS rehab03.jpg
SKUNK F**CKERS REHABILITATION
  • ARE YOU SEXUALLY AROUSED BY PICTURES OF ANIMALS WITH HUMAN GENITALIA?
  • DO YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY RELATING TO HUMANS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX?
  • DOES YOUR HAMSTER RUN WHEN HE SEES YOU COMING?

SKUNK F**CKERS REHAB CAN HELP YOU! WE OFFER ASSISTANCE IN THE FOLLOWING:

  • REALITY TRAINING
  • HAIRBALL REMOVAL
  • GENDER RELATION COUNSELING
  • SPAY AND NEUTER CLINIC
  • BASIC ANIMAL ANATOMY
  • SPECIES ABUSE RECOVERY PROGRAM

WE CAN GIVE YOU A LIFE!!!

© 1989 SKUNKF**CKERS REHAB INC., a NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION

The ill treatment from other fans is what led to furries creating their own cons. The first furry con, Confurence Zero, had sixty-something attendees, two of whom dressed up as animals.[11]

A few months after Confurence 0 the Baycon staff did make a statement that Furries were in fact welcome, from the 1989 Baycon progress report: "I have to admit that I haven't the slightest idea where this one came from. There were some tasteless fliers put out by individuals who don't like Furry Fandom. It was annoying, but not nearly enough of a disturbance to make us even consider blackballing an entire fringe fan group." [12]

Furry artwork continued being distributed in zines and comics until the 1990s, when the Internet revolutionized the fandom with FurryMUCK, Furcadia and other sites dedicated to roleplaying and artwork.

In "How Furries Became a Fandom", writer Clare McBride traces major influences on the fandom from Looney Tunes to Disney's Robin Hood, from Animalympics to the Renaissance Age of Animation in the 1980s, up to the release of Zootopia. She says:

Assuming that the Internet bred furry fandom is an easy assumption to make. It’s certainly the assumption I made, despite running with a crowd of scene kids and furries in Bush-era suburban Georgia. But furries—fans of anthropomorphic animals—go back both further and not as far as you might think.

In mainstream culture, furry fandom is largely known by a reputation best codified by the 2003 CSI episode “Fur and Loathing,” which depicted all furries as sex-crazed fetishists utterly heedless of prosaic concerns like dry cleaning bills. Even in geek culture at large, furries remain a niche among niches—and often a convenient punching bag for geeks of all other stripes to say, “Well, at least I’m not like those weirdos.”

Which is why I find furry fandom so interesting as someone outside of it. Fandoms that develop in isolation or otherwise non-traditional ways fascinate me, and furry fandom operates on a wavelength that owes more to old-school science fiction fandom than contemporary media fandom. It’s a creator-centric fandom that places more value on generating original material than fanworks, and it can extend into a lifestyle in a way that media fandom can’t.

While anthropomorphic animals have existed in folklore for nearly all of human history, furry illustrator Taral Wayne posits that furries actively resist association with their ancient counterparts. In the program book for 1992’s ConFurence 4, they explain: “Furries draw their imagery from a common background of Saturday morning cartoons and comic books, and have imbued these images with meanings that could only arise from growing up in the boomer years.” While every furry, of course, is different, one only has to look at the cheerful cartoon aesthetic of most fursuits to realize that furries are more Bugs Bunny than Bast.

...

The dawn of the millennium saw a steady increase in numbers in furry fandom, as those who discovered they were furries during the Renaissance Age of Animation found their kind online. These numbers led to the rise of both regional conventions such as Furry Weekend Atlanta and international conventions such as the UK’s RBW and Australia’s MiDFur. The rise of DeviantArt, SheezyArt and FurAffinity also provided ways for furry artists and writers to connect with each other and share their work in a space expressly designed for them. (FurAffinity is to furry fandom as Archive of Our Own is to media fandom.)How Furries Became a Fandom [13]

Discussion and Controversy

Controversy over furry is often related to erotic works, the perception that furries are sexualizing animals, and varying stances on "zoophilia." Within furry fandom, there are varying responses to outside criticism. Furries are somewhat controversial due to the perception that they are sexualizing animals. Responses to this view within furry fandom vary. The Furry Survey covers issues such as human vs. animal identification and zoophilia.

Many non-furries are squicked by the furry identification and alleged sexualization of animals. This is explicitly demonstrated by putting them on the bottom of a graphic from 2002: The Geek Hierarchy. Furries are often mocked with terms like "furfags," "skunkfuckers," and other derogatory language. Furry art sites constantly suffer DDOS attacks. In 2014, a furry convention was attacked with chlorine by an unknown person; 19 furries were hospitalized and people could have died. Furries have long attempted to understand why they are hated and how best to respond to it. Some believe the fandom should be made more family-friendly to appeal to the mainstream, while others argue that furries are hated because many are autistic and/or LGBTQ. In the late 2010s, the phrase "Keep Furry Weird" became common, albeit controversial, in response to the Furry Converse Advertisement sponsoring a Brazilian convention.

Discussions Within Furry Fandom

In the fandom, some topics of debate emerge over and over through-out the years.

  • Poodling
  • Attempts to appeal or reject mainstream society; commercialization, sanitization and "family-friendliness" at cons
  • Ferals, babyfurs, and other subcultures within furry

Debate over individuals or events is more likely to be dubbed "drama" than discourse.

There is also discussion on similarities, differences and rivalries with bronies, anime fans, and other fandoms.

Definition of "Furry"

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Outsiders to the fandom may sometimes, jokingly or seriously, refer to all animal-like characters as furries, but most furries use a more strict definition.

One can cite classical mythology, traditional folk-tales, fable, lycanthropy, children’s lit, hunting magic, totemism, and animal stories. We have always lived with animals, and thought about them...

But funny animals are specialized critters... We don’t communicate with animal spirits, wonder how we will be reincarnated next on the wheel of life... The point is, we are NOT ancient Greeks, Amerinds, feudal peasants, Hindus, or Druids. We do NOT think of animals as these people did...

All the same, before furry fandom there were furries – artists and fans such as myself who drifted into either science fiction or comics fandom...[14]

In February 2020, the What is a Furry? Survey asked 162 internet users how they defined words like "furry" and "fursona." About half of respondents were nonfurries. Many were from Toyhouse, a website dedicated to original characters and fan characters that is popular with young people. There was some notable disagreement on whether "furry" is a matter of self-identification or not.

68.5% believed an animal character who "neither walks nor talks" can be a fursona, while 31.5% disagreed (it is assumed this is about certain species of feral characters, which do not usually walk in a bipedal fashion). 19.8% believed having a fursona automatically makes one a furry regardless of how they identify. 80.9% believed furry is a self identifier and 19.1% did not. A more wordy question presented a scenario in which an artist who only draws The Lion King characters says they are a furry, though they are restricted to one media-based source. The majority, 90.7%, believed that yes, this person would qualify as a furry. 9.3%, said they wouldn't.

Example Works

Art

Video

Zines

cover of the second issue of a furry zine, Tali Visions

See also Wiki Fur's list of fanzines.

Communities

Meta/Further Reading

Other Links

References

  1. [1]"Furry Socialism: You’re Soaking in It!" by Tempe O’Kun and Dralen Dragonfox July 17, 2018
  2. [2]"How furries resist a commercialized fandom" May 22, 2019
  3. [3] Adjective Species Furry Demographics
  4. [4]9 questions about furries you were too embarrassed to ask by Dylan Matthews
  5. [5]For Some With Autism, Furry Culture Offers Comfort And Acceptance by Sarah Boden
  6. Furnation
  7. [6]Adjective Species: Species Popularity Explorer
  8. [7],Furries (Down the Rabbit Hole) by Fredrik Knudsen
  9. Everyone's A Furry 2k16Everyone's a Furry by Colin Spacetwinks
  10. [8]Omaha the Cat Dancer: Cultural Impact on Wikipedia
  11. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aF2GxWi7Ag Furries (Down the Rabbit Hole)
  12. [https://confurence.com/1989/01/baycon-1989-progress-report/#gallery-1/0/20190513_162702_117_13.jpg Baycon progress report 1989
  13. How Furries Became a Fandom by Clare McBride, July 19 2017
  14. Furry 101