Furry fandom

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A fox fursuit.

Furry fandom is a subculture built around the furry genre.

The furry genre is a metagenre [1] based on the idea of fantasy animal characters, rather than any one type of fiction. Any title in any type of media can be considered a part of the furry genre simply by having a fantasy animal character in it, though such characters are most often seen in cartoons, comics, science fiction, allegorical novels, commercials and video games.

The fandom for this genre was first organized by fans at science fiction and comics convention]s in the early 1980s. [2] The fandom then grew into a large and diverse community of animal related fantasy fans.

Members of the furry fandom, known as furry fans, furries, or furs, [3] particularly enjoy media that includes fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics[4]. Some examples of anthropomorphic attributes are: exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walking on two legs, and wearing clothing.

Since the mid-1980s, furry fans have referred to any anthropomorphic animal character as a furry. Other terms for these types of characters are funny animal and talking animal, or kemono in Japan.

A furry community has grown rapidly with the advent of the Internet. Content created by furry fans on the World Wide Web covers a wide range of interests, including fantasy, philosophy, sex, politics, religion and lifestyle.

History and Inspiration

The term "furry" originally came into existence at a science fiction convention in the late 1970s. Then, the term was used to describe one specific genre of fantasy art. As these "furry fans" became more organized, they began using e-mail and MUCKs to communicate. One of the oldest and largest MUCKs in existence is FurryMUCK.

Examples of the types of animal characters with humanized features that typically inspire furry fans are represented by the titles below.

From cartoons
Roger Rabbit, The Angry Beavers, Rocko's Modern Life, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Wile E. Coyote
From animated feature films
Disney's Robin Hood, My Neighbor Totoro, The Secret of NIMH, Bagi, Madagascar
From TV
Father of the Pride, Kimba the White Lion, Disney's Rescue Rangers, SWAT Kats
From comics
Usagi Yojimbo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Omaha the Cat Dancer, Shanda The Pand, Albedo, Maus
From novels
Richard Adams's Watership Down, Andre Norton's Breed to Come, Brian Jacques's Redwall series, Steven Boyett's The Architect of Sleep, S. Andrew Swann's Moreau series
From games
RuneQuest, EverQuest, the Star Fox series, Sonic the Hedgehog series, Jazz Jackrabbit series, Conker's Bad Fur Day
From webcomics
Newshounds, Boomer Express, The Suburban Jungle, Kevin and Kell, Faux Pas, Namir Deiter, Sabrina Online, Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures

Such titles are often credited with inspiration by those who create works within the furry fandom.

Many members of the fandom have also cited as inspiration the historical usage of anthropomorphic animals in world mythology, including but not limited to Greek, Egyptian, Japanese and Native American.

Although many of the non-furry creators of such material are aware that some of their audience consists of furry fans, the most common term used by cartoonists to describe anthropomorphic animals is "funny animal", regardless of whether the animals are used in a funny way or not. Additionally, in Japan there is a genre called kemono, a tangentially related but independent genre with different cultural associations.

There are dozens of webcomics based on animal characters. Many are created by furry fans and, as such, are referred to as "furry comics". "Kevin and Kell", in contrast, was created by non-furry illustrator and cartoonist, Bill Holbrook. Some consider there to be little, if any, actual difference between a furry comic and a traditional funny animal comic.

Fan creations

Furry fans are eager for more material than is available from mainstream publishers. The demand is filled by fellow fans—amateur to professional artists, writers, and publishers who produce drawings, paintings, stories, independent comic books, fanzines, websites, and even small press books. Fans with craft skills put together their own plush furry toys, sometimes referred to as plushies, or build elaborate costumes called fursuits and wear them for fun or to participate in convention masquerades, dances, or fund-raising charity events (as entertainers). While many fursuits look like sports mascots, some fursuits go beyond that and include moving jaw mechanisms, animatronics, prosthetic makeup, or other frills.

Art and writing

Many furry fans participate in the arts, becoming amateur—and sometimes professional—illustrators, comic strip authors, painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, and craft artists. Primarily, the fandom produces hand- or computer-drawn artwork, although there are many sculptures, fabric pieces, stories, filk music pieces, and even photographs.

While the bulk of these fan-created pieces of art are distributed through nonprofessional media such as personal web sites and via email, some publish their works in anthologies, Amateur Press Associations, or APAzines. A few have mainstream, professional credits to their names.

Role playing characters ("Fursonas")

Some furry fans create anthropomorphic animal characters in order to engage in role playing sessions on the Internet; these characters may be used in MUDs, on Internet forums, or on Electronic mailing lists. The oldest extant on-line furry role-playing environment is FurryMUCK, although it was predated by the GE-run BBS, The Beastie Board in which conversation sometimes led to role-play. Another popular online furry social game is called Furcadia, created by Dragon's Eye Productions, which has become significantly more popular than FurryMUCK. There are also several furry-themed areas and communities in the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Second Life.


Sufficient membership and interest has allowed for the creation of many annual furry conventions in North America and Europe, the largest being Anthrocon in Pittsburgh each June or July. Further Confusion, held in San Jose each January, is almost as large. The total attendance figures for furry conventions exceeded 9130 in 2005, a growth of 13% over the previous year.[5]. In 2005, 18 such conventions took place around the world. The first known furry convention, ConFurence, is no longer held. (Califur has replaced it, since both conventions were/are based in southern California.)

Many conventions feature an auction or fundraising event, with the proceeds often going to an animal-related charity. For example, Further Confusion has raised more than $44,000 for various charitable beneficiaries over its seven year history, and Anthrocon has raised more than $62,000 for animal-related charities since 1997.

Sex and furry fandom

A number of furry fans who are of adult age enjoy creating erotic works. In furry slang these may be referred to as yiff or spooge (slang for semen). Online galleries of such works tend to be clearly labeled with adult content warnings and are not intended to be viewed by minors.

As happens with most other fandoms on the net, furry fans of appropriate age may engage in cybersex fantasies on MUCKs, MUSHes, MUDs and other online role play environments. Such environments frequently have age-restricted areas for this kind of activity, though some MUD-style furry games are restricted in their entirety to "adults only", such as Tapestries MUCK.

Portrayal of the furry fandom in the mainstream media is rare but several shows and magazines have featured furries in some way. Some members of the furry community feel these focus too much on the sexual aspect [6] of the furry subculture. Examples include articles and columns in Vanity Fair Vanity Fair article and Loaded magazines, the syndicated sex column Savage Love, and dramatized fiction or documentaries portrayed on television shows like ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CSI: Episode 406: Fur and Loathing)[7], The Drew Carey Show, and MTV's Sex2K. [8].

Some articles link the furry fandom to sexual fetishes, such as bestiality and plushophilia, but some furry fans state they do not participate in or approve of such fetishes, and they protest the portrayal of the fandom as anything but an interest in a certain genre of art. They do not think of furry fandom as being any different from other fandoms, such as anime, which also have erotic sub-genres and sexually oriented role play, but are not judged as a whole because of them.

Because of this controversy, many fans have advocated limiting the visibility of erotic furry works. This has caused even greater protest from the creators of such works who consider such restrictions to be a violation of their freedom of expression.

Today, however, all furry conventions have established guidelines and standards of conduct that restrict sexually explicit material and behaviour to appropriate areas and situations. Others have created furry art archives, such as Yerf, which are free of sexual content.

Though the sexual controversy tends to capture the greatest amount of attention, furry entertainment of a non-sexual nature that is suitable for all audiences continues to be produced in great abundance by the fandom.

Furry lifestylers

The phrase furry lifestyler is used to describe an individual with beliefs similar to those of animal related religions and philosophies, such as Shamanism and Otherkin. Many lifestylers often believe they have a totem animal that watches over them or that they are the reincarnation of an animal spirit. Others may believe that animal instincts exist within humans as part of a genetic code.

Some lifestylers may also adopt physical attributes of an animal, such as animal-related hair styles, tattoos, and articles of clothing or jewelry. Cases of people undergoing extensive body modifications are documented, as shown on the Discovery Channel program Humanimals: Wild Makeovers, but are extremely rare.

Contrary to popular misconception, the phenomenon of furry lifestylers is not directly related to furry fandom. Rather, lifestylers are one of many segments of society who are drawn to the fandom out of an interest in animal characters.

The phrases "furry lifestyle" and "furry lifestyler" first appeared in July 1996 on the newsgroup alt.fan.furry during an ongoing dispute within that community. One element within furry fandom believed that any peripheral interest not directly relating to furry art, literature and fantasy should not be directly associated with the fandom. While others believed that the definition of what constituted furry was up to the individual. The dispute was resolved by the creation of the newsgroup alt.lifestyle.furry August 1996 to accommodate discussion not relating solely to furry cartoons, artwork and literature. Posters to this newsgroup quickly attracted the term "furry lifestylers." [9] The fandom and the lifestyle have been considered separate concepts since that time.

Some other communities, such as the "were" or "therian" communities, share similar beliefs with furry lifestylers but wish to distance themselves from the term “furry,” as they are not necessarily interested in furry fandom or do not wish to have their beliefs trivialized by association with a "cartoon" fandom. [10]

See also




Further reading

  • Craig Hilton: Furry Fandom — An Insider's View from the Outside, parts 1 & 2, South Fur Lands #2 & #3, 1995, 1996

External links




  • Furnation - A furry webhosting service and adult furry comic publisher
  • Furbid - An auction site specializing in furry materials
  • Furnet and Anthrochat - popular furry IRC networks
  • Yiffstar - A furry "Adult" stories archive
  • FurryMUCK - A popular multi-user chat and roleplaying environment in the MU* category
  • The FBC - A popular Furry internet radio station
  • Furtopia - A popular furry webhosting community, with art contests, radio and forums

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