The Furry Fandom
The furry fandom is a subculture focused on animal-anthropomorphic characters, animals with human features. Some traits these animal characters, or furries, can have, are: human intelligence, facial expression, the ability to speak or walk on two legs (or paws), or use things like clothing, utensils, vehicles, technology… Although it can apply to any real or made-up animal (birds, dragons, lizards), mammals are more common in the fandom, specifically furry ones. Hence the name furry.
This tendency to anthropomorphize animals can be seen since ancient times in cultures all around the world. Some of the oldest literary works with animal-anthropomorphic characters are fables, such as the fables from Greek Aesop (6th century B.C.), or the Indian fables of Panchatantra (3rd century B.C.). They present talking animals that interact with ech other, with stereotypes identifiable even today, like the sly fox, or the proud conceited lion.
However, the furry fandom as we know it today was born in the 80s, with the appearance of fanzines (fan magazines), comics, and small fan meetings. In 1989 the first furry convention was recorded, ConFurence 0, in California, with 65 attendees. In the 90s and with the passage of time, the furry fandom became more popular thanks to the internet. Newsgroups, IRC channels / public internet chats, and MUCKs / MUDs (virtual rooms for text role-playing) appeared. So did forums, art websites, and communities / social networks later on. The use of the internet made it easy for furry fans to associate all over the world, and to this day it’s the most widely used form of communication, the easiest way to exchange art, and to organize furmeets and events.
Just like animal-anthropomorphic characters are called furries, so are, by extension, members of the furry fandom. Each person in the fandom, each furry, embraces the activities and habits they like the most, among which there are several common ones.
The fursona is the alter ego of each furry (an OC, original character). It is an anthro animal character, of species, shape and design chosen freely, that represents the furry fan. It can be used as an avatar on the internet, and may reflect desired or identity characteristics: for example, someone who wishes to be big and tough could choose a bear, or someone who considers themselves refined could choose an elegant cat. In any case, it is a character each person chooses themselves, allowing to express and identify oneself not because of coincidental facts (such as being born with this or that skin color), but by personal choices or preferences. The fursona is coupled with a name or nickname that’s also one’s own creation, which is used by furries to call each other.
Art is the main source of self-expression and entertainment that unites the fandom. Be it drawing, music, literature, film, crafts, graphic design, video games, etc. etc.; furries collect, watch or create animal-anthropomorphic art, the one each person likes best. There are huge websites devoted exclusively to furry art, renowned artists, favourite movies, and comics and stories paper-published and in digital format. The furry fandom stands out from other fan groups (like Star Wars fans or The Lord of the Rings fans) in that there is no governing body that decides what is “canon”, official version, or authentic furry; every person in the fandom decides what trend they like best, allowing for much diversity.
Clothes, Decorations, Fursuit
Many furries buy and create clothing or decorations that evoke animal anthropomorphism: stuffed animals, badges, tails ears and paws, to wear in furry events or decorate their room. Some furries, who want to get more into their character, wear fursuits. Fursuits are animal-anthropomorphic costumes, that can cover the entire body (full fursuit); or just the head, arms or legs (partial fursuit). These fursuits, a bit complex and usually custom-made, can cost from less than one hundred US dollars (raw materials only, no paid labor), to hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the fame and craftsmanship of the maker.
Role-playing is commonplace (freeform role-playing, without rules). It’s about expressing oneself in the same way the fursona or anthropomorphic animal you’re imitating would. Usually it’s in text format. For example, if it’s a cat, a furry might say to another furry friend on IM / WhatsApp, –meows gratefully, and licks his paw-, instead of just saying Thanks. Role-playing actions are written between asterisks, dashes or parentheses, or in bold letters, to distinguish them from normal speech. Role-playing can be embedded in a normal conversation, or a conversation can be held only with role-play. There are furries that role-play constantly, others rarely, and others never do, depending on the tastes of each.
Social aspect: Furmeets, Events, Websites
Furries, like other groups of friends, meet to do things together, be it chatting, having a drink, watching movies, etc. Sometimes many people meet for a particular event, or few people meet who have the day off or live nearby. They keep communication channels open, either through mobile instant messaging, chains of contacts, or other. There are also commonly used websites, which function as art galleries, but also social networks. Through these websites you can talk and meet furries from all over the world. Among others:
A furry convention is a scheduled gathering in a hall, hotel, or set-up place. Common activities in a furry convention are:
- Some form of accommodation
- Dealer’s Den / Artists Alley, where artists display and sell their work
- Tutorials and workshops, for those interested in arts and crafts
- Special events, such as fursuit parades, dances / discotheque, public panels, storytelling, or charity auctions of art
Spanish Convention: Furrnion (2017)
After more than a decade of furmeets, events, and interaction on the web, the Spanish furry fandom holds its first convention in January 2017, in the capital: Madrid. With the intention of attracting international attendees, the official languages are both English and Spanish. With over twenty staffed people working to make everything go smoothly, (many of them volunteers,) some activities that take place are: artists’ alley and art exhibition, disco night, fursuit parade, board games, and others. The mascots of the event are the bull Bertín, and the lynx Doña Ana. You can stay updated on its website (link⇒), or @furrnion on Twitter.
Best Known Conventions: United States (USA)
Anthrocon. It’s the largest furry convention. Held since 1997, it takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA North-East) annually, in June / July. In 2015 it had about 6,400 attendees, of which approximately 1,400 were fursuiters. Due to the large number of fursuiters, for the first time the parade was outside the facility, on the street!, which was very well received by the city inhabitants. It has a multitude of activities including role-playing games, Dance Dance Revolution competitions, storytelling, stand-up comedy, drawing shows… It welcomes one or two guests of honor every year, widely recognized for their artistic work in series, comics, or other works.
Further Confusion (also known as FurCon) takes place in the Bay Area of California (USA West coast) every January. Founded in 1999, it also receives guests of honor (GoH) each year. Some significant events at the convention are drawing competitions, Critterlympics, charitable art auctions (which have raised the most money so far), and an in-house television station broadcasting live events. The theme of the convention in 2016 was “Classic American Diner“, and it had about 3,500 attendees, of which 760 were fursuiters.
Best Known Conventions: Europe
Eurofurence. It’s the oldest convention so far, having been active since 1995, and the largest in Europe. In 2015 it had approximately 2,100 attendees. Although sometimes it has taken place somewhere else, the last years it’s been held in Berlin, Germany, in the largest hotel in the city (the Estrel Hotel). It lasts five days, from Wednesday to Sunday, celebrated annually every August. Uncle Kage, CEO of Anthrocon (USA), has been witnessed repeatedly saying in outbursts of euphoria that Eurofurence is the best furry convention in the world. Some convention events are: fursuits dance, photo shoot, concerts, art and acting workshops, various cultural events and contests, and charity auction. It’s a tradition to start the convention with a public barbecue, and to finish it with a show of furry puppets (pawpet show).
ConFuzzled is the furry convention of the United Kingdom. It takes place in Birmingham, England, annually each May. In 2015 it received approximately 1,200 attendees. Some activities it houses are: trivia contest related to the annual theme; a “frankensuit” contest in which participants have an hour to create a fursuit with simple materials (cardboard, pieces of furry cloth, glue…) often with horrible and hilarious results; puppet show, and furry banner competition. The event mascot is a badger with a top hat particularly fond of cookies.
NordicFuzzCon is the annual furry convention of Stockholm, Sweden. It’s held in March, and in 2016 it received about 500 attendees. It has an annual theme, and its own mascot, Mausie. Its activities include, among others: drawing workshops, games like Nerf gun battles, storytelling, sauna, and a dancing nightclub.
Statistics about the Members of the Furry Fandom
(World Wide, March 2016)
The Furry Fandom:
- Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter (public domain)
- Looney Tunes, (C) Warner Bros.
- Tail Concerto, (C) CyberConnect / Bandai
- Aesop’s Fables, illustrations by Ernest Griset / John Tenniel / Harrisson Weir (public domain)
- Zootopia / Zootropolis, (C) Disney
- Who Said I Did What?, by Spunky (link⇒)
Furry Activities, The Fursona:
- Kota the Siberian Husky, drawn by Rileyy (link⇒)
- Joshua, drawn by Zen (link⇒)
- EbonyTigress, drawn by Kyoht (link⇒)
- Niko, drawn by Kyoht (link⇒)
- BubbleLee, drawn by BubbleLee (link⇒)
Furry Activities; Clothes, Decorations, Fursuit:
- Ari, character by Blastdav (link 01 ⇒) (link 02 ⇒)
- Swag / badges from Kiriska (link⇒)
- Nyan Cat bag, by Punkadillie; Nyan Cat by PRGuitarMan (link 01 ⇒) (link 02 ⇒)
- Furrnion logo & mascots (link⇒)
- Anthrocon 2015, photo taken by Douglas Muth (link⇒)
- Further Confusion 2016 poster (link⇒)
- Zylana and the fursuiter Telephone at the Dealer’s Den, in 2 The Ranting Gryphon’s stand (Anthrocon 2015); photo by Goldeen Ogawa (link⇒)
- Staff of ConFuzzled 2014 (link⇒)
- NordicFuzzCon logo (link⇒)
Article by Mike Retriever, March 2016.