Furry 101


"Furry" is a fan based subculture loosely described as people having an interest in anthropomorphic animal characters, or animals with human personalities and characteristics. Also included are those who have spirit animals, close animal connections, animal-like expressions, or animal enthusiasts. These can and often do include animal welfare and rights activists, pet care advocates, animal behaviorists, and those with a casual interest in animals in art, sci-fi writing, or mascots.

Historically, furry goes back to caveman times where ancient civilizations used animals in story telling, and imitations to hunt for food, or teach lessons. No doubt early man watched animals and learned about their behaviors and skills. Tales of Anubis in Egypt, Romulus in Rome, and Sacred Animals in Greek Mythology remain pervasive in story telling today, much like Aesop's fables were when they were told.

But "furry" itself is hard to define well or completely, as there are multiple facets related and associated with furry interests. But perhaps some of the best examples of anthropomorphic attributes include virtual or cartoon animals exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, including but not limited to speaking, walking upright on two legs, taking on human habits and customs, and the wearing of human clothes. The more modern form of the fandom was largely based on conventions, grew out of internet chats exchanges in the late 1970's, where costumers, artists and writers would get together to exchange in person, locally, and later expanded to national and international gatherings we see today. Many attribute the development of a personal "fursonae" (furry personality, or OC - for original character) in the early 1970's to Ken Sample (full name Kenneth Sample), also known as Coug'r, who is a furry artist living in California - but at the same time, others point to shaman influences of the American Indigenous Indians, Egyptian, Roman and Greek Mythology, and other historical references of anthropomorphic animal depictions.

My own experience is that the modern day "Furry" which Lisa Ling showed, did an excellent job in the CNN television special, "This Is Life with Lisa Ling" (Season 5 Episode 8) which aired in 2018 - called "Furry Nation". It doesn't completely address much or all of the extents, but it is a reasonable "furry" primer for those not exposed to it. I highly recommend watching that episode to others, and it can be easily found online.

But - Am *I* a Furry?

Maybe. If you happen to be worried or concerned with the question: "Am I a furry?" The answer is very simply, "I don't know. And it doesn't really matter." To be clear, the furry fandom is a fairly open and welcoming group. There are no "standards" by which anyone else can judge someone else's admittance or involvement. There also isn't a litmus test, or a "popularity scale", although some ascribe to that idea based on personality traits. And it's really up to you to decide, and "No, I don't think so-" is a perfectly good answer.

Many younger people enter, excited, and then leave later, disillusioned. Others, like myself, make a life-time commitment to being involved, sharing experiences, gowing friendships, and interacting with the fandom community on various levels. And "Furries" include and are well represented by successful members of the following professions:

  • Lawyers, Judges, Civil Workers & Politicians
  • Medicine (Nurses, Doctors, Pharmacists, Therapists)
  • Scientists (Researchers, Mathematicians, Engineers, Technicians)
  • First Responders (Police, Fire, EMTs)
  • Military (Enlisted & Officers)
  • Artists, Writers, Musicians & Photographers
  • Financial (Accountants, Stock Brokers, Advisors)
  • Computer (Developers, Admins, Web developers, InfoSec)
  • Animal welfare (Veterinarians, Techs, Activists, Officer Workers)

Others too, can and have offered genuine and sincere mentoring of their skills and abilities to help those who are undecided or searching for a niche. These include those that went on to make a living taking furry art commissions, being commercial artists, and including a few who make a living by being full time fursuit & costume makers.Some people as they find the furry fandom will even enter into furry based group housing, moving into rental rooms, apartments or homes - with some seeking to leave abusive family lives or parents. Others manage to balance their furry lives while at school or university, carrying it through post-graduate educational life.

Often, when I am asked about the extent of "furry", I reply with "What is the extent of humanity? Now, add to that - the extent of the animal kingdom, and you're probably gaining a wider view of the expanse of the fandom and humanity's impact on the animal kingdom."

So, to the question of "Are you a furry"- I really don't know, as only you can answer that. But I know that I am better off for being a part of it, and benefit from the friendships I've made in it.

So, do I need a "Fursonae"?

No. A furry personality is not needed, and really depends on you. For me, I associate myself with a red fox. But a fursona can be any animal species or a combination of multiple species and is not limited to real-world animals (e.g., gryphons, unicorns), and may have human traits mixed in - or not.

Usually, a fursonae (furry + personality) is an avatar or a fictional character invented and used just within the fandom to represent themselves in the community or within game play. (Ever seen one of the Mario Brothers game characters add a raccoon tail and ears?) And it can begin to build and develop a feeling of inclusion, often used as an "icebreaker" in first meet up conversations, with "What is your fursonae?" Most fursonas are selected from animals species that were imbued with magical or human characteristics, including the ability to walk and talk, wear human clothes, and have human traits or personalities. Some come from literature, while others come from film or animated feature films. Some fursonas tend to be fairly anthropomorphized (human-like), though some can appear closer in appearance to animals, with others including magic or cybernetic characteristics. Also, some will become fetishized and overly sexualized, mostly in order to gain attention and viewer reaction (aka, being "squicked" by someone else.)

Fursonae creation is creative, and can have psychological and social benefits as well as pitfalls. Some maintain fursonaes for a lifetime with a feeling of attachment, while others change frequently and may even have multiple fursonaes. Inventing a character can involve melding process who you are as a person - with the goal of who you might like to be. Also, many furries develop fursonas imbued with qualities they’d like to develop. For example, a introvert might have a extrovert fursona, with a outgoing nature - that they escape what they see as a weakness. Alternately, some reflect their own personalities in their fursonae. (I have Scottish heritage, so Camstone often be drawn in art as wearing a kilt.) Or a fursonae as simply a fantasy character, or costume identity, with little to no attachments to the person who made them. Some will create "ready made" fursonaes for others to adopt, including character descriptions, history, and artwork - even selling them to the highest bidder. Recent surveys and research indicates that a majority of those with a fursona is a helping furries explore different means of expression and qualities before taking them on in their full time lives.

Well, ok, but what about all that stuff on furry sexuality and other issues that I hear about?

Let's be clear on this, yes, a strong current of furry sexual exploration and sexual exhibitionism exists. It is not pervasive, but it can be consuming, and mentally draining at times. People join and leave the furry fandom on a regular basis. And furries can align with hetero-, bi-, homo-, a-, demi- or pan-sexual preferences. Some recent fandom surveys show that furries align to approximately 60% male gender, 10% female, and 30% having multiple, transitional or no specific gender alignment. The specific numbers don't matter, but the variety does. Most find the furry fandom a very welcoming and open group, with ability to discuss most interests openly. Some care with adult topics require private discussions in age restricted forums, but most accept these and the care necessary to address underage minors. Some people develop life-long friendships and relationships, and a few have even committed themselves to their partner, and a few have been married in "furry weddings."

And as they enter fandom activities, new people bring a "revolving door" set of reoccurring interests and issues, some that do involve sexuality, sexual expression, personal mental health and even animal abuse. These can bring guidance from others, as well as ridicule, and emotional stress. There are also those who consider themselves "advisors" or "counselors" who - without any formal training- give advice freely. 

And there are some people that have been identified as "groomers." And yes, there are also raw and illogical political factors that also become interwoven in the fandom, and there are often discussion threads and callouts regarding those activities. Radical views will often emerge, and if a person is not prepared for these actions by others - it can cause significant mental pressure on the person receiving the attention. Some people have been hurt, socially, mentally, financially, and physically by the worst of them - and some "furries" have been convicted for their crimes in civil courts and spent time in jail as a result of their actions against others. But, those are very small minorities - even tending to be regarded by some as just "furry folk-tales." 

However, more recently, those with significant criminal, societal or behavioral issues have been specifically identified and "banned" from attending many conventions or special interest group meetings.

Other News and recent updates

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02 FEB 2021 - Feel free to comment and leave me messages on Twitter, or drop me an email - as I would appreciate improving this page in any way possible. Later on, I will likely add links, so if you have any specific references that helps with this page and discussion - please send them or remind me of them.