This page is up for three reasons:
What is a Furry?
The most common question from people is "What is a Furry?" The most common answer to that is a furry is an anthropomorphic being. As you can probably guess, this leads to the question, "What is an anthropomorphic being?" To quote the Macquarie Dirctionary:
anthropomorphic, adj. ascribing human form or attibutes to beings or things not human
What does this mean? I'm glad you asked.
Anthropomorphism is giving human charactistics to an inhuman object. A simple example would be to say dolphins are always happy because they are always smiling when in reality they just look like they are smiling and we therefore just assume they are happy. A more complex example would be a cartoon character such as Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck. They have been anthropomorphised because they walk around, talk and act like people.
That all sounds very cold and clinical, so we'll try to narrow it down some more. There is a difference between anthropomorphic and furry, but its hard to explain. It is a little hard to explain. A furry is generally some from of "morphic" animal, which means they usually have hands and most of the time they can speak. However, like all things, there are exceptions. There are quite a few natural or "nonmorphic" animals out there as well as a lot of mythical beings and combinations. Human shaped torso on animal bodies are very common and are called 'taurs (as in centaur) Of course, there is no governing thing saying the torso has to be that human either.
By now, I've probably got you freaking out. Don't worry, a lot of people think its really weird and to some extent I agree with them. There some who dress up in costumes of their character (fursuiters) and those who change their lifestyle to blend in with their furry-selves. To them I say "Congradulations" however, its not for me. But, be warned, in recent months I've taken a shine to the idea of fursuiting, mainly because I think it would be interesting to a really detailed full size dolphin/dragon/something while a lot of the other furs seem to have (relatively) simple suits.
The best way to explain the differences between furry and anthropomorphs would be with
an illustration, but since I can't draw, you'll just have to take my word for it that there is
a difference. Its a subtle difference. One day you suddenly find yourself going, "Thats furry
and thats not." Then you spend ten minutes trying to determine what made you say that.
The classic question is "Why would you want to be a furry?" Another good question.
Like all good questions, there are lots of answers. My reasons for myself are given in
my about me page, so I won't repeat them in great deal here. The
obvious reason is escapism and pure fantasy. When you were a kid, did you ever dream of being
a dog or a horse or a bird? Well, furries never grew out of that stage, they just sort of
refined it a bit.
Where do furries go? Are there secret meetings late at night? Actually, there probably are... another frightening thought.
Furries can be found in VR (Virtual Reality) ie, the net or in RL (Real life). A lot of furs seem to spend more time in VR than in RL, hence social skills can be lacking. Incidently, as a good (VR) friend once told me, if you have more friends online than you have in real life, you need to get out more. I'm not admitting to where I spend the most time.
On the 'net, if you want to find Furries in real time, definately try the Mucks. Mucks are Multi User Chat environments. Sort of a more refined version of IRC (Internet Relay Chat). On a Muck, you can have rooms, characters and objects, each with a description. This means that your character (or more correctly, your avatar) can walk around the virtual world and interact with it and other character. Before you start to get too excited, 98% of the Mucks are text based. This means lots of typing, reading and imagination. Definately not for some people.
If you're curious, THE muck to start at is FurryMuck. It was one (if not) the first dedicated furry muck and is still one of the most popular. If its your first time there, logon as a guest.
The other style of chat is IRC, the more conventional chat. It use to be they place to go was "Yiffnet", but that has been semi-disbanded. There still are a few servers around the place, but you may have to hunt for them. On the larger networks, like DalNet, try joining a channel called #Furry - it probably exists. Now days, there are also the chat rooms on things like Yahoo Groups, but I don't use them, so I'm afraid you'll have to look them up yourselves.
In real life, furries meet all the time. Its interesting to see the distinction between those who meet in RL as opposed to those who only meet in VR. What can be a little strange is meeting someone who appears human, but is still "in character" and wants a scritch. I'm still getting use to that. Where there is a concentration of Furries, they tend to have "Furmeets". Informal gatherings, usually to catch a movie, see something or just hang out. Trips to the zoo are always popular.
Then there are the large formal meets. These were spin-offs from the big science fiction conventions. Many years ago, the large sci-fi conventions started to have a small session for the "furries" (Also known as "those strange guys who think they are animals" as opposed to "The normal guys who think they are Jedis") The sessions got larger... then longer... then someone organised the first furry convention. Now there are literally huge furry conventions each year. There is "Anthrocon", "ConFur" and "ConFurrence" just to name three and that is not including the numerious smaller regional ones.
Personally I have been to one Furry Con - I made it to Anthrocon in 2002. It was
an eye-opening experience. A bit of a shock for a dolphin from the backwaters of Australia,
but a fun experience none the less. The American approach took a bit of getting use to, as
did some of the furs, but by-and-large it was an excellent time. Hoepfully I'll make it
to some others.
I had to put this in because someone asked me about it. I've been in the fandom so long now, I don't notice I use the term, but as far as I know, its only prevellent inside the fandom. If you spend any time around Furries, chances are you'll hear the word "yiff" being mentioned somewhere in the conversation. Then you'll be like me and wonder what in the world they are talking about.
Yiff translates more or less across to something sexual. Possibly not the full on act, maybe just an innocent snuggle, but there is a definate possibility of sexual contact being there. Then, at the other end of the scale, you have people who just swap the word "yiff" for "sex". (As in "Fancy a quick yiff?" which is "Fancy a shag?")
I have seen a fair few explinations for where the word comes from. They include it being an acronym for "Young Immenently F*ckable Foxes" to its the sound mating foxes make. Never having heard mating foxes, I'll leave it to you to deduce your own explination.
Make no mistake, parts of furry fandom are very sexual. Some people do it just
so they can get their kicks from it. Some may have some bizarre leather, bondage and vixen
fetish. If you go looking on the net, I will guarentee you'll probably find some things
that will make you open your eyes for one reason or another. But don't condem the fandom
because of that. There is also huge quantities of non-sexual stuff, but the publicity
usually avoids that because its not as incendary as yiffy things.
I have tried to say what I like about Furry fandom, it may not have come out right, but I did try. However, I will also have to list some annoyances. A lot of Furs, devote pages of web pages praising the furrydom and not many of the fans criticise it, so I'll air my pet grevances for a change.
After spending a very short amount of time in the Furry world, you discover that they whack the word "fur" into everything they can. A furson (person) can go to confurence (conference) to discuss their fursona (persona). For a while its cute, then it just gets annoying.
Reading those two paragraphs two years later puts a different slant on things. I still stand by my comments about the male to female roleplaying, but now I have found a few RL females who play male characters to avoid being sleezed upon. Its still true about the naked pictures though.