Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Furry is a colloquial term used to indicate a particular category of fictional anthropomorphic animals. Put simply, a furry is a funny animal taken "seriously" for the benefit of an older audience. Usage of the term furry is limited almost exclusively to members of furry fandom or other cultural groups aware of furry fandom; it is not widely used in mainstream circles. The term furry is also very often used to refer to a furry fan.
Furry subculture has become much more popular with the advent of the internet. Furry content on the internet is sometimes sexualized, which is a common source of criticism against the furry community.
Furry fandom has always been about anthropomorphic animal media—including mainstream furry characters—and not only those created by fans. Some people not involved with furry fandom do not consider a character or work "furry" simply because they are not aware of this growing fandom. However, for over two decades furry fandom interest has been focused on famous animal characters such as the following examples:
Roger Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and Mickey Mouse are "funny animals": though they are anthropomorphic, mostly they behave like people, and can be considered to be the cartoon equivalents of character actors. In addition, Usagi Yojimbo, Omaha the Cat Dancer, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (even though turtles don't have fur), and the characters of Father of the Pride are furries. They are generally more "realistic" in appearance than the funny animals and behave more like hybrids of humans and animals. They are sapient "people" as much as any well-limned fictional characters, but they aren't presented as animals for laughs. For example, the rabbit characters in Richard Adams' novel Watership Down are sentient and talk to each other, but their behaviour and psychology is very closely derived from that observed in real-life rabbits. Other furries are not so closely tied to their animal characteristics, but a degree of serious consideration is almost always given to this aspect of their characterization. Andre Norton's Breed to Come , Brian Jacques' Redwall series, and Steven Boyett 's The Architect of Sleep are other examples of novels featuring furries, as is Paul Kidd 's Fangs of K'aath , which has been cited as a source of inspiration for many people to create furry works.
A popular motif in furry art and fiction is to play against species stereotypes by depicting furry versions that display the opposite characteristics. One example is the comic book Usagi Yojimbo which features the adventures of Miyamoto Usagi, a skilled and ferocious rabbit samurai that contrasts against the stereotype of the species being gentle and helpless.
Furry creatures are often found in games, especially role-playing games and computer games. Examples include the race of humanoid ducks found in the role-playing game RuneQuest, the feline-humanoid race (known as the "Vah Shir") found in the MMORPG EverQuest, and the races found in the Sonic the Hedgehog series of video games. However, in many video games from Japan, characters often regarded in the Western World as "furry" are actually kemono, an independent genre with different cultural associations.
Furry slang is uniquely recognizable to anyone familiar with the fandom. The terms morph or anthro (both contractions of anthropomorph) are also used for furries. The name of the animal the furry is based on is often prepended, for example rabbitmorph or lionmorph, to provide a more specific description. Morphic rabbit or morphic lion are yet other ways to describe such creatures. They can also be referred to with anthro preceding the name of the animal, as in anthro rabbit. The base animal is not necessarily limited only to those animals with fur: sometimes more specific terms such as "scaley" and "feathery" or "avie" are also used when dealing with animals possessed of the corresponding skin (or plumage) type.
Some terms used by people in the furry fandom include:
- Scaly - A reptile character (for example, a dragon).
- Feathery - A furry character with feathers (for example, a gryphon).
- Avie - Same meaning as Feathery.
- Macro/Microfurry - A very large/small furry character (similar to King Kong).
- Scritch - Gentle scratching.
- Fursuit - A furry costume.
- Yiff - A synonym for "sex", "sexy", "aroused" and so on. See the sexuality section below.
- Furvert - Someone who is into the sexual aspects of the fandom.
- Fursona - A furry fan's "furry persona".
- Headfur - Fur on top of the head that grows as human hair does, and may be styled similarly.
- Greymuzzles - Furries over 30.
- Main article: furry fandom.
Much furry interest centers on artistic representations, often cartoon-like, of furry creatures; Yerf and the VCL are two online repositories of such furry art.Amateur and professional artists ply their wares online, by mail order, and at furry fandom conventions. In 2003, Anthrocon's art show tallied sales of almost $50,000, about 25% of which was for erotic or pornographic images. Further Confusion's art show in 2003 and 2004 exceeded $60,000 in sales, with one piece going for $10,000 in the 2004 auction.
Comics creator Steve Gallacci is believed by some to have popularized this usage of "furry" through his association with some science fiction and comics conventions and the small-press "funny animals" APAzine Rowrbrazzle.
Charitable works are a tradition in furry fandom; many conventions feature an auction or fundraising event with the proceeds often going to an animal-related charity. Since 1997, furry fans have raised more than $100,000 for various animal-related charities.
Some members of the furry community see furry animals not simply as art or fiction, but as representations of their true selves; these are often called "furry lifestylers" to distinguish them from "furry fans".
Many furries (term commonly used to describe members of the furry community) have a character (furry) of their own in which they use to represent themselves in a fictional environment and for some a realistic environment. Generally this is referred to as roleplaying, and the character as a fursona or avatar. Many will use these characters as images of themselves for others to view them as.
A more common way to look at it would be popular video or role-playing games in which people can design their own character. People see these characters and interact with them as if they were the real person, and generally the person behind the character acting as if they are the character. In the end the character is used to represent themselves to others.
The place of sexuality in furry fandom is debated. Some furry works are erotic or pornographic, and some furries feel that their identity as furry is a part of their sexuality. There are numerous discussion forums, online communities, and online art galleries devoted to erotic furry artwork and stories. Criticisms of the furry community often focus on the raw quantity and easy accessibility of sexual content, and the less-informed may view the fandom as a fetish. Other members of the furry community do not feel that their "furriness" is related to their sexuality and are uninterested in sexualized furry works.
Online furries sometimes engage in cybersex (or "yiff") as well. The popularity of yiffing is testified by the existence of Tapestries, an adults-only MUCK game with the theme of furry cybersex. Many of those who are interested in the non-sexual aspect of furries may feel that those who in fact are interested in the sexual aspect make a bad impression on the furry fandom. As with many creative interests there are usually those who enjoy a sexual representation, as in manga or anime.
The media tends to focus on and sensationalize the sexual aspect of the fandom, sometimes to the point of outright fabrication. For example, an episode of the popular TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation ("Fur And Loathing") which featured the murder of a "fursuiter" fetishist is generally regarded as being ill-researched. The show came under fire by furries throughout the fandom as it aired and long after it aired due to its inaccurate portrayal of furries and the fandom.
Some people occasionally view the furry community with contempt, a prejudice highlighted in Lore Sj÷berg's Geek Hierarchy. The comedy website Something Awful (in particular, the Something Awful forums), the website Portal of Evil, and a small portion of the furry community have long been critical of the fandom, largely due to the entertainment these groups find in trolling furries.
However, there is ever-increasing evidence that this sort of "humor" has worn thin. In 2003, R. K. Milholland , author of the webcomic Something Positive, expressed his annoyance with the flamewars between furries and their detractors. This was followed up in 2004 with Brad Hicks' essay, "Lay Off The Furries, Okay?", which echoed the sentiment that anti-furry humor was hackneyed. The nail in the coffin was when Richard Kyanka, owner of Something Awful, admitted: "Dumb people cannot make jokes, so dumb people latch on to others people's jokes and think that if their joke is funny one time, then repeating it 1000 times makes it 1000 times as funny."
When furry fandom coalesced out of the independent black-and-white comics scene in the late 1980s, sexual material was relatively rare and its creators discreet in its distribution. This began to change with the advent and increasing popularity of ConFurence, the national furry convention held in California by founders Mark Merlino and Rod O'Riley .
The Rise and Fall of ConFurence
ConFurence was held throughout the 1990s, providing a necessary central point for furry fandom's members to meet each other on a regular basis. It also provided the fandom's first (some would say only) major schism: the question of how to handle sexual issues. Messrs. Merlino and O'Riley were openly homosexual, with Mr. Merlino being somewhat militant about it. This in itself did not cause controversy, but complaints began to be raised when public incidents of overtly sexual nature began taking place at ConFurences.
These incidents grew more frequent and more outrageous, to include full displays of BDSM gear in the hotel main lobby — even at family venues such as Knott's Berry Farm. Complaints to the ConFurence staff were generally ignored, and some fans began actively boycotting the annual event.
As it turned out, the CF staff were promoting the convention in specialized magazines aimed at the gay community of California. People also began noting that when CF staff set up promotion booths at other conventions (such as San Diego Comic Con), the material they had on hand to show as examples of what the fandom had to offer was often highly sexualized with a predominance of homosexual erotica. 
The end result was that newcomers to the fandom were being told, by its main promoters, that it was mainly about sex. This situation dominated until into the late 1990s, when disgust with CF policies resulted in the formation of entirely new conventions aimed at putting a stop to the poor public behavior ConFurence was so tolerant of. A few "counterconventions" were organized by people who were offended at the notion of people being offended by CF's policies. Eventually, despite the continuing growth of the fandom, CF succumbed to the loss of attendees who were now going to conventions like Conifur , Further Confusion, Mephit Furmeet , and many others. Management was handed over to a new group with the intent of reforming the flagship convention, but by this time too much bad blood had arisen and ConFurence officially folded two years later.
During its lifetime, CF swelled furry fandom's ranks hugely — mostly with people who had been sold on, and came looking for, its sexual side.
Sex, Lies and the Internet
Furry fandom's other major source of new members was, and is, the Internet. As with CF, a central hub for the fandom existed in the form of FurryMuck , an online text-based world in which literally anything could exist if you could describe it. Founded in 1990, FurryMuck was at first relatively tame when it came to sex, it being limited by general consensus to a few private areas.
This changed drastically starting with an article which appeared in the March 1994 issue of Wired magazine, with the cover-mounted banner of "Johnny Manhattan Meets the FurryMuckers". The article described, largely, an account of MUD-driven cybersex, and although it actually spent most of its length talking about LambdaMOO — which has no connection to FurryMuck, and wasn't largely frequented by furries at the time — readers reacted to the headline.
FurryMuck was deluged with new players, nine out of ten of whom seemed interested only in having uninhibited cybersex with anyone they could cajole into it. Anti-newbie campaigns sprang up, and so did the inevitable counteractions by the less inhibited furry Muckers. And as more press began following Wired's example in covering the fandom strictly from its sexual angle, more and more newcomers of a sexual inclination arrived on the fandom's various doorsteps.
Today, a tour of FurryMuck will quickly reveal that where there were once only a few dedicated areas for sex, now there are dozens of areas that pander to various specific fetishes. This, too, has been cause for friction amongst those fans who want the fandom to have no limits, and those who believe that the fandom's reputation has been tarred by the inconsiderate indiscretions of its more libertine members.
The "Gay Invasion"
Between ConFurence's deliberately pitching itself to gays as though it were a primarily gay event, and FurryMuck's unintentional attraction of sexually-starved Internetters, furry fandom became inundated with people whose first and foremost concern was for their personal sexual lifestyle. The majority of these were gay men, and many of them were militant Gay Priders. This, combined with furry fandom's unorganized and largely accepting nature, meant that gays simply became part of the scene. And indeed, the fandom as a whole has never had a serious problem with this.
The conflicts of the fandom, in essence, have been between Gay Priders and their supporters — who see sexual liberty as being the most important issue in their lives — and many of the fandom's original membership, who want it to grow and be accessible to the social mainstream.
While it may not be as obvious now, throughout the 1990s Gay Priders fought at every turn against attempts by the mainstream membership to "normalize" the fandom. When furry convention-goers complained about a man dancing around in nothing more than a Dixie cup — in the main hotel lobby — Gay Priders stood up for the dancer, some denouncing the complainants as liars, religious fanatics or even neo-Nazis. Similar incidents resulted in similar complaints and similar responses. The shrill and constant counterattacks against any attempt to address such matters made debate impossible and even raising the subject was sure to spark a lengthy flamewar in any furry newsgroup. However, this was not because of the calls for increased public decorum, but mainly due to the unfair stereotyping against gay fans and lifestylers who were being blamed as a group for the actions of poorly-behaved individuals.
The Current Situation
Finally, burnout was reached, and with the demise of ConFurence itself the complaints about public sexual displays has dwindled off to virtually nothing. A sort of truce has formed between most of the fandom's members, which amounts simply to "don't look, don't gripe".
Ultimately, there is no "central control" in furry fandom, even less so than in other fandoms. There is no limit on rating, subject, or genre. And there is no way to eject anyone from the fandom, so everyone is stuck with everyone else. Bearing this in mind, individual furries simply do their best to avoid material they do not like, and work a bit harder to seek out material they do like.
Yet, the wounds are still fresh and more furries are becoming concerned with their fandom's image. With the lack of progress brought about by infighting, many have turned to addressing the fandom's detractors directly, whether on Something Awful or Portal of Evil or on the forum of an online comic strip which takes a swipe at furries. Even fansites devoted to the television program "CSI" have been visited by furry fans seeking to correct the misrepresentation made of the fandom in one particular episode.
The objective, for the more lucid and well-spoken furries, is not to convince the detractors themselves so much as it is to correct the misapprehensions of those reading the exchange. Most of these have never heard of furries prior to the first negative statements uttered by various trolls, and the listeners are prone to passing such disinformation along out of pure ignorance.
Towards the Future
As shown by the statistics maintained on the AFCIS (Anthro Fandom Convention Information Sheet- see external links below), the number of people attending furry conventions has grown to over 7,500 in 2004, with the number of conventions themselves expanding to some 18 worldwide. Every year except 1997 has seen a net increase of attendees, and 1997 only posted a loss because ConFurence East closed its doors. Every other convention held that year posted an increase in attendance, and in 1996 CFE itself broke attendance records with 1,100. If convention attendance can be considered a true gauge of a fandom's overall expansion, furry fandom has a mean average growth of just over 38% annually. Actual growth for 2004 was 25%.
The original core meeting point found in the comic book industry has largely fallen to the wayside, with only a handful of books still being produced although the current series have shown remarkable longevity such as Genus which is the longest running adults only comic book in North American publishing history. By contrast, the Internet continues to provide furries with a means beyond the conventions themselves to meet, socialize, create and share new material. Furry fans exist not only in the United States and Europe, but literally across the globe, with artists and writers hailing from every continent and nearly a quarter of the world's nations. The VCL (commonly if de jure incorrectly called the "Vixen-Controlled Library"), the largest online repository of furry art by far, boasts over 4,300 artists and in excess of 280,000 images. Granted, there are few quality or content controls on the VCL (the idea being to promote free artistry), so the viewer is warned to employ both Sturgeon's Law and common sense at all times when viewing the VCL — while most material there is rated for anyone to view, inevitably one will run into something one might not want one's children or co-workers looking at. More work/child-friendly archives are available at various sites such as Yerf, DeviantART, Sheezyart, Fur Affinity and many other online art sites. Nowadays, most open Internet art archives contain some furry art. None of this would be possible without the cheap and flexible communication made possible by the Internet.
Many new furry creators are high schoolers or beginning college students with little or no interest in overt sexuality and strong interests in the humor and storytelling aspects of anthropomorphism. It is these who are appearing more and more frequently on furry art sites online.
- AFCIS – Convention Information Sheet and historical attendance figures.
- Belfry Furry Online Comic Strips – Huge listing of furry comics.
- Lay Off The Furries, Okay? – Brad Hicks' essay on how furry-bashing has become passe.
- A Chronology of Furry Fandom – A good history of the pre-internet furry fandom.
- Furry Sociology – David J. Rust's comprehensive survey of furry fandom's demographics.
- The Furry Code – A furry version of the Geek Code.
- Leinir's essay about Furries – General overview of furry fandom.
- PeterCat's Furry InfoPage – a repository for FAQs, lists and periodic postings.
- Flayrah Furry News Portal – Current News of Interest to Furry Fandom.
- Invasion Of The Furries – Newspaper article about furry fandom published in 2001.
- Furries Redux – An essay on motifs versus genre and why this might have attracted negative attention towards Furry Fans.
- Orlando Furry Archives – Archives of many Furry artists.
- Furs4You – Furry Artwork and community site. Community run and community based.
- Furaffinity – A fledgling community art gallery
- Yerf – All ages and high quality Furry artwork gallery host
- TFCentral – A portal dedicated to TF. Hosting, forums, image gallery, story archives, and chat.
- Furnation – Webspace Provider for Furry related websites
- Furtopia homepage
- Furbid – Furry Online Auction Site
- Furnet – Furry IRC Network
- Burned Fur
- VCL – VCL Clean and Adult Furry artwork gallery host, see also the VCLWiki
- Browse deviantArt Anthro Artwork – deviantArt's latest anthropomorphic artwork
- Sheezyart – Gallery and Community site for G to PG rated Furry Artwork
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