what’s the deal with “Furries?”

What a decade of research reveals about a misunderstood subculture.

post July 24, 2017 | reviewed by Lybi Ma

This donation to Animals and Us was created by Dr. Courtney Plante, a society psychologist and co-founder the the International anthropomorphic Research Project. This is an global team the social researchers studying the furry fandom. That is likewise the lead author of a compendium of findings from their researches of the furry fandom. (You deserve to read the publication FurScience! here.)


Furries. You might know them together “the human being who dress up in the giant pet mascot costumes.” Or, relying on the media you consume, you may additionally know them as “the human being who think lock animals and also have a monster fetish for fur.” Or, simply as likely, you have never heard the term “furry” prior to outside the context of your pet dog or the neighbor v the earlier hair who mows his lawn without a shirt on every Saturday. Nevertheless of what you have or have not heard around furries, it could surprise girlfriend to learn that there is a team the researchers that have dedicated their careers to studying this fandom. Possibly even much more surprising is what almost a te of research on the subject deserve to tell united state all around how us relate come animals, exactly how we understand ourselves, and also how we benefit from letting the inner child run wild every therefore often.

What are furries?

Before talking about what we have the right to learn indigenous furries, it would certainly be beneficial to have actually an idea that what lock are, exactly. Put simply, furries are fans. In the same method that Star Trek fans room fans that Star Trek and sports fans room fans of sports, furries space fans that media that features anthropomorphic animals—that is, pets who walk, talk, and also do otherwise human being things. At very first glance, the seems choose anthropomorphic pets are a bizarre thing to be a pan of. That is until you establish that many North americans today flourished up city hall Mickey Mouse and Bugs rabbit cartoons and reading books like The story of Peter Rabbit and Charlotte’s Web, and also continue this proud heritage by taking our youngsters to check out the films like Zootopia. Sure, the plan audience of these works may be children, yet the same could likewise be said for Star Wars and also Harry Potter, a fact that has not dissuaded the millions of adult fans of these collection either.

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Demographically, the furry fandom is comprised predominantly of white males in their teens to mid-twenties. For the many part, they represent what girlfriend would intend to discover in a common geek or nerd subculture: Above-average school performance (nearly half are college students), an attention in computers and science, and also a passion for video games, science fiction, fantasy, and anime. Less typical, however, is the fandom’s LGBTQ demographics: Furries are seven times an ext likely than the general population to determine as transgender and about five times an ext likely to determine as non-heterosexual. Provided this composition, it must come as no surprise that the furry fandom is a community defined in no small part by that is inclusivity. This fandom embraces the norms of being welcoming and non-judgmental to all.

But aren’t furries…?

Misconceptions abound about furries, with media write-ups routinely mischaracterizing them together fetishists or as psychologically dysfunctional people. Plenty of such misconceptions room demonstrably false, borne regularly out the a lack of clear understanding about what furries do as a group. For example, the misconception the furries are world who achieve sexual gratification native wearing mascot-style fursuits stems indigenous a little percentage the furries, around 20 percent, who manifest your fanship through costuming. However, as with other fan communities (e.g., video game convention attendees, anime cosplayers, sporting activities fans who wear their team’s jersey), together costuming is seldom done because that the objective of sexual gratification and is practically always done together a form of self-expression or performance. And, like other fandoms, one’s attention in furry can manifest in a variety of ways: illustration or commissioning furry-themed artwork and writing, playing furry-themed games, costuming and also performing, and gathering with others who share the exact same interest.

Another such misconception stems native the mistaken id that furries room not fans, however rather are world who think themselves to be, in whole or in part, animals. In actuality, this definition far better reflects a team known as Therians, whose sense of self consists of non-human animals (e.g., the soul of a wolf trapped in a human body). The vast majority of furries feel completely human and also have no desire to become a non-human animal; they simply enjoy media that features animals who walk, talk, and also do otherwise human being things.

What can furries teach us about our very own psychology?

Now that you have a better understanding that what furries are, and what they room not, that is worth asking what practically a te of research study on this group can call us around people in general. Three findings room of specific interest.

1. Furries are fantastic case study for the psychological principle of ethical inclusion and how it relates come non-human animals. Placed simply, as soon as something is contained within a person’s moral domain, the is topic to their ethical principles. In contrast, points excluded native that ethical domain are deemed beyond moral consideration. Practically speaking, those who fall within ours in-group often tend to also fall within our ethical domain, if those belonging come out-groups are less likely to get moral consideration. In the case of furries, who spend considerable time anthropomorphizing animals, this means that numerous non-human pets fall within the same ethical domain as people do. As such, furries are more likely 보다 non-furries come be protest to the usage of non-human pets for commercial or research study purposes.


2. The vast bulk of furries create a fursona—that is, a furry-themed avatar used to communicate with other members of the fandom. Fursonas generally consist of one or an ext animal species, a name, and also personality characteristics or various other characteristics. Given the fantasy-themed nature that the furry fandom, separation, personal, instance furries are totally free to produce representations that themselves unbounded by reality. As such, they have the right to reconceptualize themselves with regard come age, gender, personality, or physics characteristics. Research study has presented that most furries produce fursonas representing similar, yet idealized versions of themselves. Numerous furries report that, end time, their own self-concept often tends to become much more like the of your fursona. This may be due to the truth that, end time, others start to communicate with them together that idealized self, validating it and helping them come internalize that as part of themselves.


3. The furry world is among fantasy, where dragons co-exist through bipedal, talking wolves and also impossible hybrids. Due to the fact that the world of furry content is so wide and all-inclusive, the fandom itself has tendency to reflect those norms. After all, if i am safety time playing pretend as a neon-blue cat the walks and also talks, am i in any kind of position to judge you for what friend wear or how you choose to identify? come this end, many furries define the fandom as one of the very first places where they felt like they could belong, something that needs to be contextualized through the reality that furries are about 50 percent more likely than the average human being to report having actually been bullied throughout childhood. For many furries, the fandom is about much more than just indulging a child-like fantasy every when in a while. That is around forging lifelong friendships and building a social support network in a neighborhood who will certainly not referee them for having unconventional interests. So while most of us would look at a human who watches cartoons or costumes as an humanlike dog, wondering: “What’s wrong v that person?” The data indicate that these an extremely same fantasy-themed tasks are a basic part of that person’s emotional well-being.

Perhaps the most fascinating point that a decade of study on furries deserve to tell us is that, in the end, furries room no various than anyone else—they have the same must belong, require to have actually a positive and also distinct sense of self, and also need for self-expression. Furries, in other words, are just like you—but v fake fur!

Click below for a perform of publications on furries by the International anthropomorphic Research Project. Dr. Courtney Plante deserve to be contacted at cplante

Roberts, S. E., Plante, C. N., Gerbasi, K. C., & Reysen, S. R. (2015). Clinical communication with humanlike phenomenon: note for health professionals around interacting through clients that possess this inexplicable identity. Health and also Social Work, 40(2), e42-e50.

Plante, C. N., Reysen, S. R., Roberts, S. E., & Gerbasi, K. C. (2016). FurScience! A review of 5 years of study from the International humanlike Research Project.

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Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: FurScience.

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About the Author


Hal Herzog, Ph.D., is the author of Some us Love, Some We Hate, part We Eat: Why It"s So difficult To Think Straight about Animals.