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Ever since I was a kid, I was told I look like a rabbit. Though I was not particularly insulted by this observation, growing up on a steady diet of Disney movies I always imagined myself more like Maid Marian in Robin Hood (a beautiful fox), or the strong and just Mufasa in The Lion King. After one too many “ahhh what’s up, Doc?”s, I realized I didn’t have to be stuck looking like a rabbit for the rest of my life. With the right attire and makeup, I could transform into whatever animal I felt best complemented the aspect of my human personality I wished to highlight. At first, my costume-wearing was reserved for “appropriate” dress up times, such as costume parties, or Hallowe’en. However, after one particularly successful Hallowe’en, I just didn’t put my costume away. Then, I started to wear it around the house. I was becoming a furry.
Furries use the form and connotation of a particular animal in order to create a persona that expresses or emphasizes aspects of their core human personality. In the same that that I imagine drag performers feel liberated by their drag personas, furries often feel most empowered when they are in costume.
Luckily, I soon realized that I was not alone. Like many other niche subcultures these days, furries have their own fandom. In other words, they’re a somewhat nebulous group of people worldwide who are all into a similar thing. Whether they gather on the Internet or in real life (yes-- there is such a thing as a furry convention), the furry fandom at large is generally open, loving, and friendly. And, most importantly, they are extremely creative when it comes to crafting their fursonas.
Most human furries develop a fursona-- that is, an animal-based persona which they use to represent themselves in the furry community. This is more than just a “look” - it’s a personality that incorporates animal qualities and can boost certain personality traits.
For instance, my first fursona was a cat, inspired by the character Kurtz from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Now, this may sound strange, but I’m a huge literature nerd and, at the time, I felt very passive in my life. I needed a way to find my inner power, an outlet for how insane the world around me felt, a way to rise above. And Kurtz, a mysterious man whose power corrupts him until he becomes a demigod, was exactly the energy I needed to harness. My animal inspiration was living with a male cat for nine years; the entitlement and expectation of devotion melded well with my vision. Blending the two characters together was a process that satisfied me creatively, intellectually, and emotionally.
Finding your fursona is itself a journey and some spend years trying on different fursonas before committing to the perfect one, trying to feel out different spirits and animals that suit them best. While some furries maintain multiple fursonas at once, I find that one fursona at a time works for me. However, I tend to revise or reinvent my fursona when there has been a massive shift in my life.
Furries have existed for longer than you might think, and have their origin in the world of scifi, comic art, and storytelling. Fred Patten was an American writer who was known for his work in niche fandom. He is often considered to be the authority on sci-fi, fantasy, anime and manga, and other fandoms that originated (or exploded) once exposed to the Internet. Before his death in 2018, he was a chief historian of sorts of the furry culture.
Patten claimed that, while we can trace the idea of furries back to as early as the 1960s, furries as we know them now were created in 1980. On Labor Day weekend of that year, artist Steve Gallacci attended the NorEasCon II Word Science Fiction Convention in Boston, MA to make history by introducing the world to Erma Felna: EDF: a comic book about sapient and ‘predominantly humanoid versions of over 150 various mammalian and avian species.’
Fans ate it up. So much so that a large gathering of these fans amassed to not only admire Gallacci’s artwork, but to discuss using anthropomorphic animals as protagonists in their own sci-fi and fantasy stories. For the next five years, groups gathered informally at Woldcons and Westercons to talk furry-- and eventually, they split off into their own formally recognized subgroup - the furry party.
In 1993, after nearly ten years of furry content being limited to books (like Redwall) and cartoons (like Animaniacs or Biker Mice from Mars) Robert C. King coined the word ‘fursuit.’ That is, a specially-made mascot-like suit a furry might wear to a con or in private that displays their fursona. At the fandom level, fanzines were in vogue, and furry conventions were gathering troops at the ground level. While many people had not heard of furries by the turn of the millennium, the public was subconsciously aware of their presence because of the media furries produced.
Google, ‘how to find your fursona,’ and hundreds of multiple choice quizzes will pop up before your eyes. But how do you know for sure? Try reading more on how to create a fursona.
While the furry fandom is, by and large, a very welcoming place, there is one thing about them that newcomers find a little intimidating: they are madly creative. The furry fandom hosts some of the best artists on the Internet. In fact, there is a long-standing joke that all of the famous comic book and animation artists these days get their start by drawing furry commissions on sites like deviantArt, Tumblr, and Twitter.
If you want to join the furry community, discover your fursona, you do not NEED to have tons of reference material, or an origin story, you just need to be you. The fancy artwork can come later.
If you need help finding the species you mos identify with, try this quiz.
At some point in a Furies life cycle there comes a point when most are going to want to have something physical that they can use to represent them in the real world. A suit, some art, a Miniture. It doesn't matter, but these things that are created in the likeness of your fursona can be used to represent how you see yourself and can become very important to ones identity.