The furry fandom is a subculture interested in anthropomorphic animal characters. According to fandom historian Fred Patten, the concept of furry originated at a science fiction convention in 1980, when a character drawing from Steve Gallacci’s ‘Albedo Anthropomorphics’ started a discussion of anthropomorphic characters in science fiction novels. This led to the formation of a discussion group that met at science fiction and comics conventions.

The specific term ‘furry fandom’ was being used in fanzines as early as 1983, however, fans consider the origins of the subculture to be much earlier, with fictional works such as ‘Kimba, The White Lion’ released in 1965, Richard Adams’ novel ‘Watership Down,’ published in 1972 (and its 1978 film adaptation), as well as Disney’s ‘Robin Hood’ as oft-cited examples. To distinguish these personae from seriously depicted animal characters, such as Lassie or Old Yeller, cartoon animals are referred to as ‘funny animals,’ a term that came into use in the 1910s.

During the 1980s, furry fans began to publish fanzines, developing a diverse social group that eventually began to schedule social gatherings. By 1987, there was sufficient interest to stage the first furry convention. The newsgroup alt.fan.furry was created in 1990, and virtual environments such as MUCKs also became popular places on the Internet for fans to meet and communicate. Furry fandom is male-dominated, with surveys reporting around 80% male respondents.

In Japan, the fandom and artwork is known as ‘kemono’ (‘beast’). Fans create their own plush toys, sometimes referred to as ‘plushies,’ and also build elaborate costumes called ‘fursuits,’ which are worn for fun or to participate in parades, convention masquerades, dances, or fund-raising charity events (as entertainers). Anthropomorphic animal characters created by furry fans, known as ‘fursonas,’ are used for role-playing in MUDs (early internet games), on internet forums, or on electronic mailing lists. A variety of species are employed as the basis of these personas, although most furries choose to identify themselves with carnivores. There are also several furry-themed areas and communities in the virtual world ‘Second Life.’ Role-playing also takes place offline, with petting, hugging and ‘scritching’ (light scratching and grooming) common between friends at social gatherings.

The world’s largest furry convention is ‘Anthrocon’ with more than 4,000 participants; it is held annually in Pittsburgh in June. The phrases ‘furry lifestyle’ and ‘furry lifestyler’ first appeared in 1996 on the newsgroup alt.fan.furry during an ongoing dispute within that online community. The Usenet newsgroup alt.lifestyle.furry was created to accommodate discussion beyond furry art and literature, and to resolve disputes concerning what should or should not be associated with the fandom; its members quickly adopted the term ‘furry lifestylers,’ and still consider the fandom and the lifestyle to be separate social entities. They have defined and adopted an alternative meaning of the word furry specific to this group: ‘a person with an important emotional/spiritual connection with an animal or animals, real, fictional, or symbolic.’

Sexual aspects of furry fandom include erotic art and furry-themed cybersex. A portion of the fandom is sexually interested in zoophilia (bestiality), or in fursuitism, although a majority take a negative stance towards the former. The term ‘yiff’ is most commonly used to indicate sexual activity or sexual material within the fandom. Early portrayal of the furries in popular media focused mainly on the sexual aspect of furry fandom. Most furry fans claim that these media portrayals are misconceptions. A reporter attending ‘Anthrocon 2006’ noted that ‘despite their wild image from Vanity Fair, MTV and CSI, furry conventions aren’t about kinky sex between weirdos gussied up in foxy costumes,’ that conference attendees were ‘not having sex more than the rest of us,’ and that the furry convention was about ‘people talking and drawing animals and comic-book characters in sketchbooks.’

Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Jim Powell was sharing a hotel with ‘Anthrocon 2007’ attendees a day before the convention and reported a negative opinion of the furries. Several downtown Pittsburgh businesses welcome furries during the event, with local business owners creating special T-shirts and drawing paw prints in chalk outside their shops to attract attendees. Samuel Conway, CEO of Anthrocon, said that ‘For the most part, people give us curious stares, but they’re good-natured curious stares. We’re here to have fun, people have fun having us here, everybody wins.’


2 Comments to “Furry”

  1. John, I’ve always been an ademrir of your work, your creative ability and expression, and your blunt and unapologetic perception of the world and people around you… there’s more, but I already sound like a filthy suck-up.At any rate, I realize your post was criticism about the Mr. Fox movie (and honestly everyone I saw the movie with who wasn’t high all shared your sentiments), but after spending more than a decade falling in and out of the furry scene myself, I’ve wanted to hear direct comment from someone who is on the other side of the fence. It, sadly, took me a while to see the subculture (if you want to call it that) for what it was, at least in its immature context. A group of self-assuring social rejects who live their life grasping at a fantasy that will never exist… whether it’s sexual or not, and everyone knows that shit is out there within short grasp, this is a group of people so socially awkward that they can’t even have a normal conversation with another human being. Disney, WB, HB, all the staple animation companies, comic books, children’s stories, and even Ren & Stimpy have all been the major catalyst for this fan base, regardless of how much they may say otherwise. They’ve been spoon-fed talking animals since they were young, and they can’t live without it.Like a couple other people in your blog comments, I could post examples of people in the fanbase who actually have notable artistic talent or who are productive and contributing members of society, but that’s pointless. I’m pretty sure that Becky Dreistadt girl you talked about in the past even has a page on a commonplace furry web gallery… But I’ve always been curious about how you, Don Bluth, Pete Laird, Rob Paulsen… ANYONE remotely involved with any part ofthe professional side of something that is nothing more than what IT is… how you all perceive and deal with these people who have so violently and illicitly violated and obscured all the creative work, talent, and endeavors that went into their initial creation. People say Ren & Stimpy is twisted, but what you have done with the series is tame in comparison to the obsession that has festered for decades with these people…I’m sorry, I’m rambling painfully. But in all honesty, I would love to see at least one single blog entry from you on the whole topic. The history of it from your perspective and your experience in the industry (because lord knows this furry stuff has been around long before The Internet), your take on the style of approach or execution (from the cutesy crap, to the crazy technical photo-realistic stuff, to the stuff borne from genuine appeal of and appreciation for Traditional Animation, to even the typical badly drawn pencil or Wacom diarrhea)… I’m curious about how you feel toward furries’ obsession with categorizing and associating anything and everything with an animal into their vague umbrella. You didn’t draw Ren & Stimpy screaming “You’re the pitcher, I’m the catcher” because you have some kind of fetish desire to see two cartoon animals having gay sex, you did it because it’s funny, ridiculous, recognizable, and contextually appropriate to that particular moment/idea/atmosphere in the twelve and a half minute story you were telling. The guys at WB (Jones, Freleng, I don’t know who specifically, don’t kill me) didn’t draw Bugs Bunny crossdressing because they got a chubby off of it, they did it because it was funny… and Bugs is a manipulative prick.Or who knows, you might just draw a page full of dog genitals and say “You people are retarded. Stop it.”

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