On Being a Furry

While my blog is still young, it’s almost inevitable that I’m going to start making furry references.  I’ve been a furry for a really long time…something like 12 years, I think.  13?  I dunno.  Anyway, for those not familiar with “furry”, I’m going to try to explain it, demystify it, and maybe share some of my experiences with it.

Fun fact about my writing: I seldom if ever use an outline.  I make a list of things I want to include as the ideas come to me, and then when I find myself running out of things to say, I consult the list.  Not everything makes it in, and stuff that wasn’t in the list sometimes does.  It’s flexible, and that lets me follow along in the story almost as if my fingers have one brain, and I get to read what that brain is typing in real-time.  It’s kinda fun!  But anyway…

Oh, disclaimer time: on the note of me sharing experiences, this is my blog, and left to my own devices outside of work, I am an extremely open person.  Aside from hiding things to protect the innocent, I’m pretty much an open book, and I can’t think of any topics that are taboo for me.  As a result, my forthrightness may come off “too open” for some readers, and I encourage you not to read those parts if they make you uncomfortable.  There are a very few things I won’t share on here—for my own reasons—but as far as I’m concerned, everything else is fair game.

Let me start off by saying this: I am not the first to write a paper/blog/article on being a furry.  Several (or more) have done it before, and they’ve done it quite well.  In fact, I don’t know that what I have to say is an improvement on what any of them has already said, but in the spirit of “this is my blog, and I’ll write whatever I want,” well, this is my blog, and I’m gonna write about being a furry, damn it!  So there.

And look!  Headings!

What’s a furry?

Let’s start with the basics.  What’s a furry?  A furry is an anthropomorphic animal enthusiast.  That word is as hard to say as it is to type, so “furry” is so much easier.  In a nutshell, think every Disney movie with talking animals in it.  Or animals at all because I think just about every animal in every Disney movie ever was anthropomorphic.  Even the damn cockroach in Wall-E was anthropomorphic.  Those animators have a disease…and I caught it: we love anthropomorphic animals—those with human characteristics.  Now, there is a huge spectrum of what defines “human characteristics”, so let’s have a section just for that.  I know there was a keyboard shortcut for assigning headings…

What’s “Anthropomorphic?”

Ah, ha!  Ctrl-option-1.  Yay!  But I digress…

I could give you a dictionary definition, but that’s boring, so I won’t.  As my dad would say, “look it up!”  Instead, I’ll simplify it to, “animals with human characteristics.”  Now, “human characteristics” can mean a lot of things.  Let’s take the aforementioned roach: it can’t talk, doesn’t walk upright, and doesn’t look anything like a human.  Yet because of its body movements, you can tell its emotion.  That is a very mild form of anthropomorphic.  Now, some would argue it isn’t.  You can tell a horse’s (or dog’s, or cat’s) emotion by watching their body language, too, but that doesn’t make them anthropomorphic.  Definitely true.  But this is a damn cockroach.  When was the last time you saw a cockroach cock its head curiously?  That is what makes it anthropomorphic: Hal (apparently the cockroach has a name) is more human than a standard cockroach in his ability to communicate his thoughts and emotions.

A more extreme example is the cricket in Mulan.  That one has a face, all manner of facial expressions, and even cries in shame at one point.  Very anthropomorphic.  Other examples at this level are pretty much every Disney horse (Samson from Sleeping Beauty, Philippe from Beauty and the Beast, Achilles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Khan from Mulan, and let’s not forget Maximus from Tangledand a shit-ton more [is it any wonder people like horses?  Disney’s been subliminally making us love them for over three quarters of a century!]), the forest critters from Snow White, and Meeko, Flit, and Percy from Pocahontas.  None of these animal characters speak human words, but most of them pull at our heartstrings with their ability to convey their emotions to us.

Moving up the spectrum, consider Lion King, my mom’s favorite Disney movie, and about the only one she didn’t sleep through when we went to theaters to see it—we went six times, and to this day, she still drives down the road blaring “Hakuna Matata.”  It is a wonderful phrase, after all.  But again, I digress.  In Lion King, the characters are unmistakably lions, hyenas, meerkats, warthogs, and so on.  They walk on the expected number of legs (everybody except Zazu and Timon walk on four because that’s what those animals do).  Yet they talk, sing, pose, and even dance.  Another example, incidentally, is Bambi.

At the top of the anthropomorphic ladder are the characters from Disney’s Robin Hood (the one with the foxes) and Zootopia.  Interesting facts about these two movies: 1) many of the furries I know trace their first furry tendencies to watching Robin Hood, and every furry I know was beside himself/herself with excitement when we heard that Disney was making Zootopia.  It is the second movie that I’ve gone to see multiple times in theaters.  Counting theaters and in-flight movies, I think I saw it something like 8 times, more times than Lion King.  But moving on, the characters in these movies are extremely humanoid.  They wear clothes, have jobs, walk upright, talk, do pretty much everything humans do, except they look like animals.  In fact, you could replace the characters with humans, and it would still (mostly) make perfect sense what they were talking about.  Although not a Disney movie, the An American Tail series is another example of very anthropomorphic animals, and there are others, too.

The common trend among all of the examples I’ve given is that the animals are animated and cartoony.  More on this later, but consider the Jungle Book remake.  In that case, the animals look pretty realistic, yet they’re still able to convey their thoughts and emotions via expressions and even talk, and so they also count as anthropomorphic.

A final note I’ll make before moving on is that sentient animals could, in a sense, be considered anthropomorphic, too.  Nothing is quite as human as our ability to think the way we do, and so an animal that looks exactly like an animal and cannot express itself by making words or human facial expressions is still a form of anthropomorphic.  Exhibit A: The Cat from Outer Space.  I watched this movie too many times as a kid.  Clearly the cat was an actual cat with a voice-over, but in concept, a cat who could speak human words, even telepathically, fits the bill.

Okay, I think I’ve beaten that dead horse enough.  And I don’t like beating horses.  And I don’t like the idea of dead ones.  Because one day mine will die, and it will, in all seriousness, probably be the worst day of my life.  I’ve had her 8 years now, and I love her more than any other living being.  So, her passing will be pretty terrible.  Let’s talk about something else.

Right, furries.  So now we know what “anthropomorphic animals” are, and a furry is just someone who likes them.  Nothing more, nothing less.  That’s the only entrance criterion.  For those who remember the CSI furry episode, I’m here to tell you this: not all furries are into that (I’ll get into what that is later), so don’t judge an entire fandom by what you saw on TV.  If you’ve liked any animated Disney animal character, you’ve probably got at least a little furry in you.

Now, with that said, because it doesn’t take much to be a furry, the fandom is huge.  There are so, so many varieties of furries, it’s crazy, but I’m going to try to break them out into a few broad categories.  But first, a bit of terminology, so that I don’t have to keep explaining myself.

Furry Words

Like many groups with similar interests, furries have invented or repurposed words for themselves.  As a furry, I use these words myself, and you’ll probably find references to them throughout this article.  This list is not exhaustive; it’s just a list of words that I personally use.  Others have come up with more comprehensive lists.

Furry

As a noun, it’s an anthropomorphic animal enthusiast, e.g., “I am a furry”.  It can also be shortened to “Fur”, e.g., “I’m a fur” or “That fur is a great artist!”

As an adjective, it describes something as relating anthropomorphic animals, e.g., “furry art” describes art depicting anthropomorphic characters.

Yiff

Like its non-furry definition, “yiff” means a lot of things.

  • “To yiff” is to fuck,
  • “Yiffy” means:
    • Sexually arousing or depicting sex—especially in a furry kind of way—when applied to something (e.g., “yiffy art”) or
    • “Horny” when applied to someone (“I’m feeling yiffy right now.”)

The story I’ve heard is that “yiff” is the noise foxes make when they’re yiffing.  Having never witnessed that, I can’t say one way or the other, but it’s the explanation I always give for where the term came from.  Even if it’s wrong, it’s still a good story.

Furry Convention, Fur-con, “Confurence”, or Con

A large gathering of furries for the purpose of celebrating being furries and interacting with other furries.  Think of it as the furry equivalent of a Renaissance faire, a Star Trek convention, or an anime convention.  There are several large ones, including Anthrocon (the biggest) in Pittsburgh, Midwest FurFest in Rosemont, IL, and Further Confusion in San Jose.  These conventions all have 3500+ attendees (Anthrocon had 7500+ in 2017).  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the convention nearest me, Texas Furry Fiesta (TFF), the only convention I’ve actually made it to so far.  What happens at a confurence?  We’ll get to that later, but probably not what you’re thinking.

Room Party

Given most confurences are hosted in hotels, visitors often have private rooms.  While no convention I’ve attended or heard of condones public intoxication or public sexual conduct, what happens behind closed doors…happens at room parties.  That said, they’re not always about sex, booze, and drugs.  Actually, I’ve never been to one that was about drugs, and if con or hotel staff catch a party with them, everybody’s quick to alert law enforcement.  Furries often get a bad rap because of CSI and similar depictions, and so in my experience, they’re extra careful to self-police and cooperate with authorities.

That said, I’ve been to one room party that was sexually charged, and it was kinda nice; everybody just enjoying each other (we all knew each other anyway).  Would probably do it again, given an invitation.  Most room parties I’ve been to involved drinking, although seldom to excess.  It’s true, some furries spend the entire convention blitzed, but they’re not the norm.

Furmeet, Fur-Meet, etc.

A meeting of furries on a much smaller scale than a confurence, maybe as few as two or three or as many as a hundred or so, usually hosted at a park or some kind of eatery that can handle the sudden influx of however many attendees there are.  While confurences are usually held once a year or so, furmeets are often held monthly and occasionally as impromptu gatherings.  Where confurences typically have admission fees to help cover the cost of the venue, furmeets are usually free or free as long as you bring something to eat or drink to share with the group.  Can’t say I’ve ever had sex or alcohol at a fur meet; because they’re typically hosted in public places, furries are generally pretty well-behaved, albeit they’re probably the most fun group you’ll ever see if a fur meet happens to spring up near you!  More on that later.

Fursuit / Suit, Fursuiter / Suiter

Probably the most iconic symbol of furries is the fursuiter, a person wearing a fursuit—a costume of an animal.  Fursuits come in many different species, styles (cartoony to hyper-realistic), costs ($50 you spent to get some materials and put it together yourself to $10K for hyper-realistic costumes with fancy features).  I once spent $1300 on a fur suit that was delivered three months late, broke the first convention I wore it to, and was promptly stolen from my storage unit out in BFE (that’s Bum-Fuck Egypt, a synonym for “the middle of nowhere”); it’s not something I plan to do again.  Moral of this story: get to know your fursuit maker before you commit to buying from him/her.  Some are way better than others, and there’s more to making a fursuit than just sewing stuff together to make it look pretty; it should be durable, comfortable (you’re probably gonna want to be in it a long time), and it should breathe (those things are hot!).

Some furries like to have sex while fursuiting.  I played with a guy in a suit one time, and I have to say, I probably wouldn’t do it again.  The suit reeked, and having a pretty strong olfactory sense, the stink was too distracting for me to have any fun.  I’m told that some ‘suiters are better at keeping their suits clean than others, but it would have to be a lot cleaner than that for it to work for me.  To have sex in a fursuit, you need a way to get through the fabric.  These are called…

Strategially Placed Holes (SPHs)

These are holes placed in specific areas in a fursuit (or plushie) to enable sexual intercourse.  Locations of SPHs typically include the front (for penile or vaginal access) and back (for anal access) of the groin.

Plushie

A stuffed animal.  Like anything, they can be enjoyed platonically or sexually.  I have four of them (three horses and a deer), but I’m not sexual with them.  Mostly these days they’re bed ornaments, but they’re good to hug when the herd isn’t feeling very affectionate and I’m feeling lonely.  Some furs have SPHs in their plushies so they can have sex with them.

Fursona

A portmanteau of “Fur” and “persona” (we like using “fur” in portmanteaus, if you haven’t noticed), it’s a personality or character that a fur creates.  They can be simple or detailed and used for different purposes.  For instance, some furs create a fursona for online role-playing (see that entry), some create them so they can have art made of them, and some create them as alter-egos.  Some have only physical descriptions for art-making, while some have entire life histories, depending on the creativity of the fur who created the fursona.

Physically, fursonas can be any species (mammals are called “furries”, reptiles are called “scalies”, and birds are called “avians”—can’t say what they call amphibians, having never met any).  The animals can be real (like dogs and foxes), mythical (like dragons), and some people even create entirely new species. Sergals are a common “made-up” species.  They can be any size, from “normal” and “kinda normal” (i.e., the actual size of the animal or a human-sized version), tiny / micro (maybe palm-sized or toy-dog-sized) or macro (huge, like Godzilla).  Practically speaking, fursuits are human-sized, but they may represent fursonas that are of any size.

From an artistic standpoint, fursonas can look realistic or cartoony.  Very realistic would be along the lines of the live-action Jungle Book, very toony would be like Mickey Mouse or many Sunday comic characters, and Zootopia and Lion King would be somewhere in the middle.  Fursonas can range in “anthroness” from feral (they look and move just like the actual animal) to very anthro (walk upright, might have fingers instead of hooves, might be humans who happen to have cat ears, and so on).  They can be any build (average, super-muscular, toned, fat, skinny, lithe, etc.), can have any color of fur/skin/scales or even really fancy patterns, glow-in-the-dark parts, and color-changing parts, and some fursonas can even shape-shift.

Fursona personalities are just as flexible as their physiques.  They can be bad-asses, timid, friendly, standoffish, shy, outgoing, flirty, prudish, consistent or capricious, lazy or high-spirited.  Or anything else.  And fursona back-stories are just as flexible; it’s all up to the imagination of the furry creating the fursona.

I’ve had a few over the years.  My first one was a dragon (I think we all go through the dragon phase; it sticks for some but didn’t for me).  My second one was a donkey.  I named him Jack Doe.  Why?  A jack is a male donkey and a doe is a female deer, and I really liked furry deer characters at the time.  Aren’t I clever?  And immensely good-looking?  And oh-so-humble?  Kidding.  Definitely kidding.

Over the years, I became a little bit vainer (apparently that is a word) and decided I wanted a sleeker look, and so Jack became a horse.  His look didn’t change much from when I first created him, although he did get a cold brand added to his shoulder (for non-horse-folks, a cold brand kills the pigment-producing cells around a hair follicle, turning the hair white without permanently damaging the animal’s hide).

His personality has undergone a lot of changes over the years.  I originally created him to be my opposite for role-playing.  Where I tended to be extremely responsible, introverted, sexually repressed, and worried about everything, Jack was carefree, easy-going, and sexually liberated.  Over time, his personality and mine merged.  I heard from some psychologists (they study us every year at TFF) that it’s impossible to keep two separate personalities distinct longer than…I think he said seven years.  I dunno if that’s true for everyone, but it certainly was for me.  I became a little more laid-back, and Jack became a little more responsible.  As I aged, so did his personality, and I began to see him more as the tall, dark, handsome, quiet type and less as the giggling-at-himself-and-everything-else type.  Now if anything, Jack is my role model: he’s laid-back when he needs to be, ferocious when he needs to be, in great shape, and—as always—sexually liberated.

As he stands now, Jack is about 6′ tall, has an athletic build (but not overly built), is black from nose to hooves, keeps his mane neat and his tail about 2″ off the ground, has hooves on his hind legs and hands on his forelegs, wears tight-fitting blue-jeans and no shirt, and has a white ‘4E’ cold brand on his left shoulder and steel-gray eyes.  His demeanor is calm and reserved left to his own devices, but he’s friendly and opens up quickly when others strike up a conversation.  He works as a blacksmith and in his spare time frequents the local pub.

Astute readers will note that the name of my fursona is also my pen name.  You didn’t think an engineer working in a conservative job would use his real name to publish furry erotica, did you?

As you can see, a fursona’s description need not be particularly complicated.  And a picture’s worth a thousand words.  When role-playing, if your profile picture is of your fursona, that’s frequently plenty to describe yourself and get straight to the action.  Some furs put a lot more detail into their fursonas, and some put less.  Like everything else about a fursona, how much effort is put into it is up to the fur creating it.

I had a lot of fun role-playing Jack, but eventually I kinda lost interest.  You do eventually burn out on typing the same kinds of sex scenes over and over, but I do have to give it credit: I wouldn’t know how to write a sex scene if it weren’t for all those years of doing it and honing the technique.

My latest fursona I created as a companion to Jack.  His name is Jamie, and he’s a buck with six spots.  He’s cute but masculine.  He’s the old-Jack’s replacement in the “young and innocent” regard, but he’s a lot more reserved.  I don’t actually roleplay as him; I have art done of him and Jack together instead.

Role-Playing

Role-playing can be done in-person, but when I refer to it, it’s almost always online.  Using whatever chat client you like (sometimes via bulletin boards, sometimes via AIM [back when that was a thing] or YIM, maybe via a browser-based chat client on some furry site, or pretty much any other public or private textual communication means where such activities are allowed), you send messages back and forth with one or more people while acting like your fursona.

The topic of the role-playing can be anything.  Frequently it’s sex-based because many furries are guys in their late teens and twenties, and let’s face it: that’s a pretty horny time of life for a guy.  Can’t speak for girls; I’m not one.  But as someone who has chronically been afraid of STDs, role-playing was great for me because you can’t catch any STDs typing on a keyboard.  Not all role-playing is sex-based, though.

Regardless of the topic, the point is to interact with others while acting like the character you created.  For instance, if confronted with an attractive fur in a real-life setting, I personally would be far too shy to say anything, but Jack’s character would walk right up and grope the guy (or girl—we’re bi).  See what I mean?  While I’d constantly be worried about STDs and topping (butts gross me out), Jack has no such compunctions.  And so using Jack’s fursona was a very freeing experience for me; it gave me the ability to interact in (pretend) situations that I would generally avoid, and it was a lot of low-risk fun.

The setting, actions, and level of detail can be anything, from jumping straight into yiffing on a barely-defined couch to regaling each other with tales of our past sitting at an old wooden table in a cozy 19th-century pub with a roaring fire at the far end of the room and drinking from giant glass mugs of beer while the bartender (a burly, dark gray rhino in an grayed white apron) washes dishes and other patrons chat about their adventures.

Fun fact: I still have that bar etched in my memory, yet I’ve never been there in person, while I can’t remember specific details of any yiffy role-play I ever did. Role-playing can be vivid, and it’s like an interactive story if you get a good role-play partner.

On the note of role-play partners: there are between ten and a hundred lousy ones for every one good one.  A hint that you’ve got a lousy one is when you type a paragraph or two to move the story along, and the other person types “murrs happily.”  *face-hoof* (that’s like a face-palm, but for fursonas with hooves, well, you use your hoof instead…face-hoof).

On that note….

Murr

“Murr” is some kind of noise of happiness used in role-playing and general furry conversations.  I’ll admit, I don’t know where it came from specifically, but basically, it’s the noise some animal makes when feeling content.  I liken it to a cat purring, but in a single sigh rather than an extended expression.  The most “expected” use of it would be if touching a person in a way that is pleasurable (either relaxing like a massage or sexually stimulating like slowly fondling his fuzzy orbs with one paw while using a claw to graze the underside of his shaft with the other), “murr” would be a pretty reasonable response.  However, I personally feel that this word is horrendously overused by the Fandom, like “LOL” in texting, and in such contexts when said as “Oh, murr!” it could be used to mean, “I approve,” or “That’s hot!” (in the yiffy kind of way).

Scritching

Second only to hugging as the way that furries physically express affection to each other in public places.  Furries on whole are extremely friendly people who will hug you as soon as look at you, but in a completely welcoming way and not in the creepy-guy-just-wanting-to-touch-your-skin-so-he-can-fantasize-about-wearing-it kind of way.  But scritching is the furry version of scratching, and it usually consists of scratching someone’s back, or if you’re wearing a suit with paws (or paw gloves), then just rubbing the person’s back.

Therian

Therians are furs who genuinely believe they are animal souls trapped in a human body.  I have at times wondered whether I was really a horse trapped in a human’s body, but in my case, it was a passing fancy.  Therefore, I can’t speak too well to what it’s like being a therian.  I have to imagine it’s frustrating in a similar vein that  being transgendered must be frustrating: your body does not match what you feel inside.  I have empathy and compassion for these guys, but that’s about all I can say about it.

Furry Standard Time

I live in Texas, and here we operate on Central Daylight Time during the summer and Central Standard Time during the winter.  Furry Standard Time here is something like Pacific or Alaska time: about 2-3 hours late.  Now, someone in California operating on Furry Standard Time would of course operate on something between Hawaii time and a time zone completely uniquely their own, an entire day behind the Marshall Islands.  In short, an awful lot of furries are erm…punctually-challenged, and so if you schedule something (like a fur meet) for noon, many won’t show up until two.

Okay, I think I’ve gotten most of the furry terms out of the way.  I’m sure I’ve missed some, but I’ll just add them later.  Yay, blogs!  Now, where were we?  Oh, yeah, let’s talk about the types of furries.

So, without further ado, ctrl-option-1…

Furry Types

Furries come in many flavors.  There are furries who:

  • Enjoy furry art / music / stories,
  • Make furry art / music / stories,
  • Roleplay as one or more fursonas,
  • Socialize with other furries / talk about furry stuff,
  • Dress up in fursuits,
  • Have sex in fursuits…or without fursuits, and/or
  • Genuinely believe they’re animals trapped in human bodies.

Some furs fall into only one of those categories.  Some fall into more than one.  I can say I’ve dabbled in each, but I mostly identify as the first one.

Let’s not forget, too, that furs are people, and people are complex.  Like in any other fandom, furs bring their non-furry interests into things, too: you’ll have furs who:

  • Are obsessed with cars, guns, or planes (I’ve known all three),
  • Are also into BDSM (talk about broad topics, I could probably write a dozen or more articles on that!) in one or more of its many forms.
  • Also like to pretend that they are adult babies, youngsters, or (non-furry) animals,
  • Are amazing artists and musicians,
  • Are technologically savvy (many furs I know work in IT or other technical fields),
  • Also enjoy other traditionally “nerdy” things like anime, Star Trek, tabletop RPGs, LARPing (Live-Action Role-Playing), and just about everything else.
  • Are socially awkward (I’d say this describes a pretty large swathe of the Fandom), introverts, extroverts, lives of the party, and everywhere in between.

In short, furries are an incredibly diverse group, and ultimately, the only real common theme is an interest in anthropomorphic animals.  Oh, I should mention, there’s a huge crossover between furries and bronies (adults—particularly men—interested in the show My Little Pony).  It was actually in the process of commissioning my tail that I learned what a brony was, so yes, there’s a lot of crossover there, but like everything else, not all furries are bronies and vice-versa.

Now, one point I want to make clear is this: on the whole, furries are not interested in sex with real animals.  That is a different interest called either zoophilia or bestiality, depending on the circumstances and semantics.  As I mentioned, furries are a huge group, and there may be some furs who are also zoophiles, but that is not the norm.  Most furries tend to go to great lengths to distance themselves from zoophilia/bestiality.  It’s very unkind to accuse a furry of wanting to have sex with an animal.  Remember that the common theme of furries is anthropomorphic animals, not real animals.  There’s a huge difference in wanting to have sex with a guy dressed up as a sexy tiger and wanting to have sex with an actual tiger.  (I have to imagine that the latter would probably be considerably more life-threatening.)

If there is anything I hope that I can convey from this article, it’s that you should probably not believe everything you see on CSI or the rumors about furries spread by ignorant non-furs.  Most of us are nice people, a little (or a lot) on the nerdy side, frequently shy, and maybe a bit socially awkward.  The vast majority of furries are not sex-crazed druggies, pedophiles, or horse-fuckers.  Believe it or not, confurences are completely family-friendly, and people often bring their kids to see the huge group of cute furry critters.  Speaking of confurences, let’s talk about them a bit more.

Confurences

I know I had a definition for this before, but let’s talk a bit about what to expect.  When I went to my first confurence (the inaugural year of TFF, incidentally—one of the staff cajoled me into it, and I’m glad I went!), I had no idea what to expect.  I had been talking online with furries for many years at that point, but I had never been to a real-life convention before.  Would there be sex?  Did I have to wear a fursuit?  Would it be creepy?  Fun?  Boring?  Interesting?  What would people be like?

That year, in order: no, no, no, extremely, not at all, very, and amazing.

Sex and Public Displays of Affection

As I said, confurences are family-friendly, and some ban even BDSM gear (collars, harnesses, leashes, etc.) to keep things PG-rated.  Affectionate scritching and hugging is rampant, but people are generally pretty good about asking first.  Fursuiters in particular tend to be huggy, and they’ll often spread their arms wide to invite you to hug them.  Some furries, however, don’t like to be hugged (in suit or out of suit), so it’s always better to ask first (also see the section on furry etiquette).  Sex happens in private rooms and is the business of the people in there, not the general convention.  And don’t ask me how you get invited to a room party; I have no idea.  The only ones I’ve been to were cases where I was already friends with the furs in the room, I went there to hang out, and—bam!—a room party happened.

Fursuits, Partials, Tails, and Badges

Most people who go to a furry convention do not have a suit.  As I mentioned, a quality suit is often in the >$1000 range, and most furries don’t make enough to afford one.  Hell, I make pretty good money and still had to save hard for mine.  There is absolutely no requirement to have a fursuit to go to a confurence.

Some people will wear partial suits.  A partial suit (“partial”, for short) is basically a component of a suit that stops short of being the whole thing.  Where a whole suit might be a single-piece body suit plus shoes, gloves, and a head, a partial might be just paw gloves (wrist-length to shoulder-length fuzzy gloves with big, fuzzy paws where the hands would be) or a head.

Stand-alone tails are probably the most common accessory.  I picked one up my first year (just a generic, fuzzy, nondescript tail) and quickly replaced it with a horse-tail made out of yarn.  I’ve had it forever, and if you ever see me at a confurence, I’ll be wearing it, whether I’m wearing anything else furry or not.

Other things include ear headbands, those knitted hat things with attached gloves that look like cartoony animal heads, and hoodies with animals on them.  You’ll also find a lot of backpacks and badges (small art pieces worn on a lanyard).  Okay, correction: badges are the most common accessory.  I have probably a half-dozen, but I don’t necessarily wear them all at once.  They’re kinda like jewelry; you wear the ones you want to and keep the others at home to look at and say, “ooh, pretty!”

Incidentally, you can get most of these things off-the-shelf or commissioned at either the artist alley or the dealers’ den (more on those later).

Furries at Confurences

You know how Chuck-E-Cheese’s motto used to be (might still be) “where a kid can be a kid”?  Furry conventions are where adults can be kids (sort of).  I can’t speak for everybody, but I personally really came out of my shell at my first confurence.  My (little) sister happened to be in town and frankly didn’t recognize me because I was so elated and light-hearted.  I’ve got a mind like a steel sieve (I forget everything), but I’ll never forget just how giddy I felt.  I was surrounded by happy, affectionate people who shared my interest in furry things, and I was discovering just how much more furry stuff there was to do!  Now, none of my other convention experiences were as good as the first one, but nevertheless, there are common elements.  A lot of furries will be really happy, really huggy, and really animated.  Fursuiters’ voices are generally so muffled by their suits that they resort to body language instead, and experienced ones tend to exaggerate their motions to make it obvious what they’re trying to convey (e.g., the aforementioned arms spread wide gesture to invite a hug, but also waving enthusiastically, giving “embarrassed” or “aww, shucks” looks, and so on).  Many fursuiters love attention and will make it fun for adults, children, furries, and non-furries.  Pretty much every hotel we’ve ever been to has loved us because other conference attendees (one hotel always had a dentists’ conference the same time we had ours) interact with the furries and end up raving about it.  Seriously, it’s a fun group.

There are also other types at confurences, including:

  • The loner who comes out to the convention and then sulks by himself,
  • The elitists who stay in their clique and talk bad about everybody,
  • The drunks-who-hide-it-well who spend all night drinking and then wander the convention enjoying how much funnier everything is when you’re still tipsy,
  • That one creepy fur who looks at you like you’re a piece of meat (this did actually happen to me one time, but I didn’t let it spoil the con—if someone is really bothering you, report him/her to confurence security; that’s what they’re there for), and finally,
  • The awkward guy/girl who only gets out once a year, and it’s evident by his/her lack of social graces.

These types are common at all conventions that I know of.  I’m just describing them to people who have never been to any convention.  The last group is particularly memorable because a skit one year at TFF (more of a public service announcement, I think) portrayed the socially awkward/gross type as “The Doritos Guy”.  He carried an open bag of Doritos with him everywhere, chewing with his mouth open and spilling copious amounts of Doritos down his front.  Even the hot tub was not spared his Dorito-munching, and the other furs in the hot tub quickly vacated.  The Doritos Guy also did not know what soap or personal space were.  You get the idea.  The line at the end of the skit was, “don’t be the Doritos guy.”  More on this in the “Furry Etiquette” section.

In general, furries are a really nice, fun group.  Some people will prefer to be left alone rather than hugged, and that’s okay; everybody’s there to have a good time, so you do your thing and let them do theirs.

Things to Do

What I didn’t realize beforehand was how many things there are to do at a furry convention.  There are panels on all manner of topics, grouped into similar topics called “tracks.”  There will probably be tracks on:

  • Art that cover things like how to make art, how to sculpt, how to make money doing art, and so on,
  • Fursuiting that cover how to stay cool in a suit, how to make a suit, how to clean a suit, etc.
  • Writing that may have multiple panels on writing in different genres, how to overcome writer’s block, and similar topics,
  • Gaming where you actually play card or board games (the furry fandom has a number of its own games based on non-furry games, such as Furoticon), or video games,
  • Science/Tech, education, and health, which cover the topics you’d expect, and
  • General furry panels, such as “this is my first ‘con; what do I do?”

In addition to panels, there will probably be:

  • Dances and concerts,
  • Competitions (dance, acting, comedy, singing),
  • Meets-and-Greets (frequently with different groups, such as “tech people”, “parents”, “first-timers”, etc.), and
  • A fursuit parade and/or photo shoot.

The last one is pretty much a given; as I mentioned previously, fursuits are the iconic depictions of the Fandom, and people tend to want to show them off and see them.  Some of the events described above are geared towards fursuiters (e.g., the comedy and dance competitions may be intended for furs in suit), not not all are.

Besides all of those activities, there are a few other things going on.

The headless lounge is where fursuiters go to take their (fursuit) heads off so they can cool off.  Those things can be like ovens, and the headless lounge is a place where they can “ruin the magic” without non-suiters seeing them.  These are generally pretty open places with lots of fans and blowers to dry out the insides of suits and cool off their wearers.

The dealers’ den and artist alley are where people sell things.  Rules and names may vary con-to-con, but generally the artist alley is less expensive to register for and is reserved for artists making their own products, whereas the dealer’s den generally costs more to reserve a space, and the products sold need not necessarily be made by the person selling.  If you want to commission a drawing, the artist alley artists are often less expensive than the dealer’s den artists, but not always.  My former roommate and I sold a little gadget we made in the artist alley a couple of years in a row.

When it comes to buying stuff, many artists are now accepting credit cards or PayPal, but some still only accept cash.  Hotels generally have an ATM on premises, so if you have a debit card you’ll be okay either way, but those without debit cards should probably plan to take some spending cash with them.

Badges I’ve seen typically ran in the $5 to $50 range, and larger commissions can vary widely in price, from maybe around $10 for a black-and-white drawing up to several hundred dollars for a full-color, detailed commission from a well-known artist, although in that case, you’ll probably be getting in the queue for them to work on your piece and you’ll work out payment remotely.  I can’t remember what I paid for my tails.  I want to say probably around $20 for the fluffy one and maybe $35 for the yarn one.  I commissioned that one, though, and the fluffy one was off-the-shelf.

For badges, many artists are good at turning them out overnight (or faster), so if you attend a 3-day con and commission something on Friday, you might be able to wear it Saturday and Sunday.  But check with the artist; they work at different paces, have different amounts of time to dedicate to their art, and have different backlog lengths.  Off-the-shelf items you can generally just buy and take with you.  Many artists also have business cards or equivalent so that you can get in touch with them later if, say, you want to commission them but don’t have the money right now.

A lot of artists are also on FurAffinity or DeviantArt, so you can frequently find them there.  As a shameless plug, here’s my FA page, and here’s the FA page for my company (complete with the Shinies my former roommate and I made).

There may be a silent auction for art, where you can go look at and bid on art pieces.  Bidding prices generally start in around the $5 range, if I remember right, but for well-known artists, they may start higher and will likely go higher as people bid on them.

Aside from all that, there’s socializing, wandering the convention (it’s great exercise, especially for us nerdy types who don’t get much exercise otherwise).

In short, there’s a lot to do at a convention.  I will say, though, that after the first few years, things do get pretty predictable, and that’s okay.  I tend to spend more time socializing nowadays and less time attending panels.  It’s all good, and it’s still worth the trip, I think.

Furry Etiquette

I think I’m going to wrap this thing up with just a tidbit of information on furry etiquette.  Unlike some conventions, furries tend to be a particularly friendly bunch, but that friendliness can cause people to forget some things.

  1. Ask before you touch.  This applies to hugging, scritching, or any other kind of contact with someone.  Many furs love to be hugged and scritched; some hate it.
  2. No means no.  Of course, nobody should have to be reminded of this, but…
  3. Don’t be a creep.  It’s one thing to admire someone’s suit in passing, but don’t just gawk.  Many furries will let you take a picture if you ask nicely, so do that instead of following them around the ‘con and making them feel weird (spoken from personal experience…weird!)
  4. Don’t call furries pedophiles, horse-fuckers, or anything along those veins.  Most are just as appalled by that as you are!
  5. Give space to fursuiters.  Having been in a fursuit, I can tell you, visibility is awful, and hearing is not good.  On top of that, depending on your suit, you might be struggling to keep your balance, have no idea where your feet are in relation to others, and have absolutely no idea who or what is beside or behind you.  It’s kinda precarious in a fursuit, so give suiters space so they can get where they’re going without hurting themselves.
  6. Don’t pull on tails or other fursuit accessories.  While it may be tempting to pull on a furry’s tail teasingly, some of those tails can be expensive, and like real tails, they’re not meant to be pulled on.  Wearing out a $100 tail prematurely by pulling on it isn’t a nice way to say “hi” to a fursuiter.

All of this is common sense, but sometimes a reminder doesn’t hurt!

Good grief, has it been 7200 words already?  I didn’t plan to write a dissertation!  We’ve covered a lot in this article.  We’ve described that a furry is nothing more than someone interested in anthropomorphic animals, and we’ve seen that animals come in many different levels of anthropomorphism.  We’ve defined terms and explored concepts such as fursonas and role-playing, discussed different types of furries, and detailed the types of things to expect at a furry convention.  Finally, we covered a bit of furry etiquette to use when interacting with furries.  Hopefully this has been informative and maybe a little entertaining along the way.  Whew!  With that, it’s definitely time for bed!

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