What is a Furry?

This was extracted from a Usenet article and explains fairly well the concept of "what is a Furry". The commenting editor's name has been lost in the sands of time and several moves between systems.

I got into furry fandom about one or two years ago, and I've been sort of watching from the sidelines ever since, slowly increasing my involvement. What *is* furry fandom? Well, the following article (from Watts Martin's FurByte, issue 1, March 1990) says it about as well as anything else I've seen.

What is a Furry?

For a first issue, this seems like a good question to address. Unfortunately, it seems to be one that's caused more than a little disagreement among furry fans. Part of this article was taken from an "about furry fandom" file that has made its way to several BBS's across the country. If you're not a furry fan, this should give you an idea of what "furry fan" implies, and might let you know whether or not you really are a furry fan and just don't know it. If you are a furry fan and you don't like this definition, feel free to complain about it (several people I know already have). I have been told that the file was originally written by "Dr Pepper," but have never actually seen it with credits attached. I have assumed both this file

It was in fact written by "Dr Pepper"

and the messages from the DeathStar BBS which follow it are in the 'public domain,' as they were originally found without copyright notices on public-access BBS's and that, therefore, their authors do not mind if people outside these boards have the chance to read them in this form.

This's what I've gathered, too... if not, I'd like to hear about it.

First--now that the question's been brought up, just what IS a furry, anyway? Simply enough, a furry is a funny animal taken seriously. Roger Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and Mickey Mouse are funny animals; they are anthropomorphic, mostly behave like people, and are pretty much the cartoon equivalent of character actors. Usagi Yojimbo, Omaha the Cat Dancer, and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are furries (even though turtles don't have fur); they are

Then there's always Domino Chance, Space Roach extraordinare...

even more anthropomorphic in appearance than the funny animals are, but behave like crosses between humans and animals. They are sapient, and just as much "people" as any fictional character, but they aren't presented as animals for laughs. Most furries tend towards their human aspects, their "species" not all that important. Some are more strongly tied to the animals they are to, perhaps 'regressing' under stress (for example, Vincent on "Beauty and the Beast," who is perhaps the 'furriest' creature known to audiences--a nonhuman, animalistic character portrayed in a fairly realistic manner).

Well, I think this all depends on how you define furries... I would've said the late Jim Henson's best-known creations (Kermit the Frog, Big Bird, etc) would also fit the bill, and they're certainly better-known...

Even if you have no idea who Usagi Yojimbo and Omaha are, you could be a furry fan and not know it. Most funny animal fans are also animation fans, and there is a lot of "crossover" between devotees of anime (Japanese animation) and the furry world. If you enjoy old Warner Brothers cartoons or Disney films such as "The Fox and the Hound," "Lady and the Tramp" or "Oliver and Company"--or other animated films such as Bluth's "The Secret of NIMH" or Nelvana's "Rock and Rule"--there is at least a little furry in you. There have also been furry novels, of course, ranging from Andre Norton's _Breed to Come_ to Olaf Stapledon's _Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord_ and Steven Boyett's recent _The Architect of Sleep_. A furry "biblio- graphy" has been batted around on some California BBS's; perhaps this will find its way into a future issue of FurBytes. However, there is another use of "furry," a way of referring to a funny-animal/furry fan. For most people, this is where the idea gets fuzzy, if you'll pardon the expression. I have not been involved with fandom all that long--I have not attended that many conventions, and my first one was the 1986 WorldCon in Atlanta--and so have been mostly an outside observer in the "fandom is a way of life" versus "fandom is just a goddamn hobby" debate. I have been around long enough to run into people on both sides, ranging from the casual observers to the fanboys from hell to people who really do seem to make fandom a profession. As to whether or not any of the rest of this describes a "typical furry fan": from what I've seen, "typical fan" is an oxymoron.

You can also check out the definition on Wikipedia. There you will find out more about the literary aspect as well as the social views.

Furry Fandom Observed

(credited to Dr Pepper)

This is an attempt to concisely explain furrydom to the curious. I am not myself a member of this group, this is what I have been told, have heard and read, or just observed in action. This is by no means complete but it is a start towards understanding.

  1. In the simplest terms furry fandom is the admiration of creatures that have both human and animal traits. Since such do not actually exist, this is considered a subgenre of science fiction/fantasy fandom.
  2. One aspect of this is simply liking so called "funny animal" cartoons and comics, such as Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, et al. Such creatures are not conceived with much logic, and it is their human references that are important, the animal shape is more for humor than anything else.
  3. Then there is the envy of certain traits observed in animals. Such traits include speed, strength, grace, beauty, cunning and of course possession of fur. Most of the animals people are attracted to are mammals, hence the term "furry," but nothing is excluded.
  4. This leads to the desire to put oneself in the animal's place so as to be able to really experience what it is like to be so gifted.
  5. But most people want to have this experience with human type sapience. This leads to the postulation of various kinds of creatures.
  6. Real animals that somehow can think and talk. A lot of folklore and mythology is mined for source material for these. Of more recent vintage is the idea of using biological or digital technology to augment ordinary creatures.
  7. Sapient analogs of certain animals. These include parallel evolution on other worlds, human genetic intervention, and additional evolution, say due to massive radiation.
  8. Gene spliced creatures made to order. These can range from customized humans to totally new beings made with the desired combination of traits.
    1. These two (7 and 8) seem to be the most popular variants at this point, particularly the gene-splicing concept.
  9. Furry fans like to read and write stories involving any of those creatures, admire and create art featuring them, and play games that include them. This includes playacting, such as answering the phone with a "meow."
  10. But some people are more than just furry FANS. These people are simply called FURRIES.
  11. Furries are those who get into the concept so much that they deliberately develop alternate personas that actually have those animal traits. Each persona takes on a life of its own in a sort of controlled schizophrenia such as ventriloquists and fantasy gamers practice.
    1. [Editor's Note: I don't agree that role-playing of any sort, furry persona or Dungeons and Dragons, should accurately be called "controlled schizophrenia," any more than an author should be considered schizophrenic if she has the ability to create and maintain believable characters in a novel.]
      Not my note, though I partially agree with the comment... however, I do think there's a degree of multiple-personality involved, too. There's a difference between creating characters in a novel, and writing their adventures, and writing (or participating in) the adventures of an "alternate you"...
  12. Furries have many different ways to relate to their furry personas. Some think of them as totally different beings who happen to live inside them. Others see them as simply minor varients of themselves. And still others see them as vehicles for normally suppressed aspects of their own personalities.
    1. This is interesting in that it can work both ways... I've seen several shy people create considerably more expressive furry personalities (I suspect all sorts of deep psychological reasons behind this, but that's another subject...), but on the other hand one of the incarnations of my personna is a considerably more shy, less outgoing variant of myself, and I use it to some extent to remind myself of who I was, and why I changed...
  13. The most interesting way of viewing a persona, though, is to see it as some sort of mystical entity that can confer benefits which are represented by the animal shape. Some relate this to a witch's familiar or to the spirit guardian of the Plains Indians. This can be taken literally, that is with actual belief in such entities, or in a Jungian fashion, that the animal shape is a symbolic key to unlock unconscious abilities.
  14. Fine. So what do furries do with their personas? They communicate through them. The definition of the persona determines how the furry will express themself. This can be quite different from how the actual person does it. This may facilitate communication under circumstances in which the person would normally feel inhibited.
  15. In fact it has been claimed that, despite the impression one might get about the persona as "putting on a mask," the use of the persona actually enables a person to be more genuinely themselves. That's because the persona has more freedom, not being subject to the stifling layers that social convention puts on us mere humans.
  16. Long as we're getting free of social conventions, we might as well get to sex. Most furries are interested in the concept of sex between themselves as themselves, or themselves as their personas, with other such creatures. This differs from simple bestiality in that the partner is another mature sapient. So regardless of the species difference, it remains full participation sex between two people.
  17. Dear me, did I say two? Two is another social convention. A lot (most?) furries like group sex.
  18. In fact, social conventions seem to go down like dominos once one gets started. That may be why so many (most?) furries are bi.
    1. This's hardly restricted to furry fandom, though; I've noticed it both in fandom in general, and (interestingly enough) on computer networks... I suspect a large part of the reason is that the people involved tend to be somewhat more intelligent, open-minded (in some things, anyway :), and comfortable with themselves than the population at large.
  19. Let us now pause while the straight and monogamous folks come out from wherever they just dived into for cover.
  20. Ok, didn't mean to chase anyone off. The point is that wherever may be on the spectrum, from full fledged furriness to just a reader of "Panda Khan," there is a place in furrydom for you.

    [end of file]

For another perspective, we switch coasts from the California furry BBS's to the now-defunct DeathStar BBS of Washington, DC. The difference between east coast and west coast furry boards is quite noticeable: west coast systems tend to have a lot more 'involved' people wandering around them, but are also often harder to follow for a newcomer. California boards usually assume everyone knows what's going on; on DeathStar, there were only two or three people who had involvement with "furrydom" outside that BBS itself; despite the apparent disdain both the system and the furry SIG operator were held in by many West Coast fans, it was one of the few boards which delved, even briefly, into the philosophy of furry fandom:

11 [006] *NRB* "Furriness"
On: Fri May 12, 1989  3:00 PM
LR: Sun May 14, 1989  1:59 PM
-- 6 Responses --
Furriness. Why you guys need to categorize it and analyse it; I don't know. What it is: I can only tell you what it is for me.

For me, it's an expression of parts of my personality that normally wouldn't get an outlet. It's Role-Playing that doesn't use a set of rules. For me, it's mostly an expression of myself for the people I care for.

Having a furry persona allows me to look at things; Life, relationships, mostly social activities, from a different perspective. But, it's a creative tool. I use my personas to test the possibilities of relations. An aggressive persona would handle things one way. A timid one, another way. Games. For me, it's an elaborate game.

I've been a Furry for as long as I can remember in my role-playing days. It's a way to be different. I feel I'm better able to accept the differences in other people because of it.

It's hard trying to explain this. I'm not making too much sense to myself, cause it would take most of this hard-disk to write down all of the little nuances and quirks of why I am what I am. It's a part of me. It's a part of me that really doesn't and shouldn't need explaining. I think you guys should get away from worrying about why and live with it. Have FUN with it. THAT is the jist behind it. It's FUN.


- Response 1 Of 6 -
On Fri May 12, 1989  9:24 PM
Actually, I understand what you are getting at. My own furry allows me to view myself from the outside, and is also a reflection/extension of my own personality.

Yeah, having a furry is great if you tend to be shy or not very social. I've made a lot of friends though furry fandom and have yet to really lose one. And like you said, it's fun!

So, have I scared anyone off with this? Hopefully not. Speaking of a "furry philosophy" may at first strike one as odd, but I'm sure that if one was willing to take the time, volumes of philosophical claptrap could be produced by talking to any serious fan, regardless of his or her personal hobbyhorse. Furry fandom is more openly sensual than a lot of other fan groups I've seen, except for some of the "Beauty and the Beast" 'zines that have popped up recently (and if Vincent isn't a furry, I don't know what is), but this doesn't have to be considered a negative.

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