What is a Furry? A History of the Fursona

There are few internet subcultures quite so discussed as furries, and for good reason, the furry community is as vibrant as it is unique which is why many outsiders are so fascinated by its goings-on.

Furries are people who enjoy anthropomorphised animals. These are creatures (generally animated) that act as though they’re human, the main distinctive trait being walking on two legs. Think Disney’s Robin Hood, Zootopia, or even Beastars for a more recent example. At least, that was its original definition.

Some define a furry simply as someone who enjoys that kind of art, there are even some who trace back how long humans have done this historically but the modern-day furry really came about as the modern variation of fandom formed in the 1980s in the convention scene.

As these conventions and new online forums rose to prominence these fans had ways to reach out to each other to discuss their interests. Of course, now Furries have formed a distinct subculture, with conventions dedicated solely to Furry art and expression, and some consider being engaged with this community and having a Fursona to be key traits to be really considered a ‘Furry’.

Official Beastar Art by Paru Itagaki

Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My!

Fursona, a combination of the words Fur and Persona, is pretty much what the word implies. A Fursona is a persona represented as an anthropomorphised animal that furries use in many ways whether that be creating or commissioning art, online roleplay or for some furries with the budget to enable it, the creation of a fursuit.

A fursuit is a mascot-style costume of a fursona or other anthropomorphised animal which is worn generally for in-person roleplay. Some wear fursuits only to furry cons, but others will wear them to any convention where cosplay is a part of the event. They may also be worn at meetups, or at home alone to make video content of their character.

Fursuits are wildly expensive, a full suit starts at about $2000 but a $6000 suit is not unheard of, many fursuit makers offer piecemeal options where clients can get only a head or just the paws to make fursuiting slightly more accessible, but with just the head often costing $2000, it’s still not a small investment.

This high price is for a number of reasons. The materials involved are pricey as decent fake fur is one of the most expensive fabrics around before you start getting into luxury materials like silk. Padding and foam in the quantities needed isn’t a small expense either.

But more so than any of the materials, the price of a fursuit is so high because of the skill that goes into making a suit. Carving and sewing a suit that both looks the way a client is requesting while still making it wearable takes a very specific skill set and with how niche the hobby is, skilled fursuit makers are in high demand. Even if you’re able to order a suit from your dream maker, it will take months if not in some cases well over a year to get the finished suit.

That’s all before taking into consideration that furries have a widespread reputation for being great commissioners for artists in general. Often willing or even happy to spend money on art to properly compensate artists for their time. There are running jokes in artist circles that securing furry commissioners is as close as commission artists can get to a stable income. It makes sense that this respect for an artist’s work, and art as a luxury commodity would cross over to fursuit artists as well.

What animal a fursona is based on varies wildly, while the most common are creatures like cats, dogs, foxes, lions and the like the range is a lot broader. Some will create custom creatures that merge multiple animals and basing your fursona on mythical creatures is not unheard of.

Even those whose fursona is a real animal will often have unreal features like bright colourful fur or markings that can’t be found naturally. Fursonas also sometimes will be wearing clothes or have accessories though this is not always the case. Some add clothing to a design simply so they can use only the head and arms of a fursuit to limit costs, while others simply like how it looks.

Generally speaking, the mentality is just to take the coolest features and run wild from there. Does your base creature have extra limbs? Well, that could be a cool thing for a design. Love the fangs that your animal has? Well, then no reason to not ask the artist you are commissioning to give them a big toothy smile.

Beyond that, there are even sub-sects within the community for various animal types. Furries whose fursona is based on lizards, dragons or other reptiles are sometimes referred to as ScaliesFeatherys are similarly known for having bird fursonas or avian-like features in their fursona’s design.  

Even bugs aren’t off the table with the most common among this niche crowd being moths, but all sorts of insects have been fursona-fied from bees to beetles and even ants.

Unfinished Fursuit Head by KloofsuitsUK on Etsy

There are Two Wolves Inside You, One is an Otherkin, and the Other is a Furry

One large misconception is the rolling together of Otherkin and Furries into the same category. While there are some individuals who overlap both groups they are separate phenomena.

Otherkin are individuals who believe that their soul is non-human and simply exists inside of a human body. What they believe themselves to be is diverse ranging from celestial beings or fictional characters to, what’s relevant to furries: animals.

Wolf otherkin for example may choose to wear collars or howl, and often present themselves as wolves online, which can look quite similar to furries engaging in rp with their fursona, especially since some furries will operate their accounts in character 24/7.

The overlap is obvious, there are otherkin who will create a fursona and jump into furry rp chats as their animal of choice but many furries are just doing so for fun not because of a belief that they are that animal on any spiritual level.

Generally, if someone is presenting mainly as a non-anthropomorphised animal then they may be an otherkin rather than a furry though otherkin have been on the decline. They rose to prominence during the peak era of Tumblr and have since started disappearing from public view.

This is actually why the modern fandom use of the word ‘kin’ has shifted so wildly. Originally if you ‘kinned’ a character you were claiming you literally were them. There was often in-fighting when others claimed the same kin since if you were really Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 no one else could be. Whereas now the term is used much more casually to mean “I relate to this character in some way”.

Can You Bring a Furry to Work?

To address the man in the elephant suit in the room, furries are perhaps the most well-known because of the not so ‘safe for work’ aspect of the community. Many of the controversies that get discussed by people outside furry culture are adult in nature, like Rainfurrest, a convention that got shut down due to its rampant drug use and various other acts that lead to the police being called on multiple occasions.

Add on to that, that for some furries their interest in anthropomorphic animals is sexual kink and the chances that an outsider’s first interaction with the subculture is going to be pg-13 goes down significantly as people are always going to be morbidly curious about the weirdest kinks out there leading to furries having a reputation for being an NSFW community.

While there are groups that engage in the interest in that way, it really isn’t the whole community with many many spaces being entirely innocent fun about cute characters. Furries as a whole are an incredibly accepting community with inclusivity being a core value for many.

There’s actually an adage in tech spaces, “Who runs the internet? Furries”. Much of the infrastructure of the modern net was made by furries and even now they are anecdotally a large portion of tech developers. But this isn’t always obvious because the negative reputation furries have as a kink group means many won’t discuss being a furry offline. Of course, the online nature of much of furry interactions is possibly why we see furries excelling in tech fields.

As many call for the death of cringe culture, a re-examining of the reputation around being a furry just makes sense. Furries are a bright and fascinating subculture that is known for supporting each other and uplifting others. Like many online communities, they exist mainly just for fun, and their choice to see value in a form of art many of us think is childish is enchanting to see.

Whether it’s on large platforms like Twitter or in furry-specific spaces like the Fur Affinity or Furry conventions, there’s no denying furries have become a cornerstone of the modern internet.

So, what’s your fursona?

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