Furry fandom is a subculture distinguished by its enjoyment of anthropomorphic animal characters. Examples of anthropomorphism in the furry fandom include the attribution of human intelligence and facial expressions, speech, bipedalism, and the wearing of clothes. Members of this subculture are sometimes known as furry fans, furries, or simply furs. 
Art and entertainment celebrated by furry fandom may be any fictional work that employs the concept of animal characters with human characteristics, rather than any particular type of fiction. For this reason, any work, in any medium, may be considered part of the furry genre simply by inclusion of a fantastic animal character, although such characters are most often seen in comics, cartoons, animated films, allegorical novels, and video games. The science fiction and fantasy genres make frequent use of anthropomorphism, and as a result, are especially popular in furry fandom.
Since the 1980s, the term furries has come to refer to anthropomorphic animal characters. Although anthropomorphized mammals are the most common, anthropomorphized reptiles, birds or aquatic animals may also known as furries. Other terms for such characters are funny animal, in use since the 1910s in the children's literature, comics and cartooning industries, as well as talking animal and cartoon animal.
History and inspiration
According to YARF!, a magazine run by members of the fandom, the concept of 'furry' originated at a science fiction convention in 1980, when a drawing of a character from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphics initiated a discussion of anthropomorphic characters in science fiction novels, which in turn initiated a discussion group that met at science fiction and comics conventions.
However, many fans consider the beginnings of furry fandom to be much earlier. Fictional works such as Kimba, The White Lion released in 1965, Richard Adams' novel Watership Down, published in 1972 (and its 1978 film adaptation), as well as Disney's Robin Hood are oft-cited examples of the beginnings of furry fandom.
During the 1980s, the increasing number of self-professed furry fans began to publish fanzines, developing a diverse social group, that eventually began to schedule social gatherings. By 1987, there was sufficient interest to stage the first furry convention.
Throughout the next decade, the Internet became accessible to the general population, and became the most popular means for furry fans to socialize. The newsgroup alt.fan.furry was created in November of 1990, and virtual environments such as MUCKs also became popular places on the Internet for fans to meet and communicate. One of the oldest and largest MUCKs in existence is FurryMUCK; while one of the newest virtual environments to attract furry fans is Second Life.
Many members of furry fandom have cited the historical usage of anthropomorphic animals in world mythology as an inspiration, including Egyptian, Greek, Japanese, and Native American traditions. Aesop's Fables is also commonly cited on lists of furry resources.
To distinguish them from seriously depicted animal characters, such as Lassie or Old Yeller, cartoon animals may sometimes be referred to as funny animals,  a term that came into use in the 1910s, first used as a reference to anthropomorphic characters in children's books, and later used to refer to animal characters in the comics and cartooning industries.
Many furry fans participate in the arts, including amateur and professional illustrators, comic strip authors, painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, and craftspeople. Furry fans are eager for more material than is available from mainstream publishers, and this demand is often met by other fans, who range from amateur to professional. These artists, writers, and publishers produce a prolific amount of drawings, paintings, stories, comic books, fanzines, puppets, and small press books, as well as sculpture, textile art, fiction, music, and photography.
While most fan-created art is distributed through nonprofessional media, such as personal websites, some is published in anthologies, by Amateur Press Associations, or in APAzines. A few works of furry art have been released in mainstream culture, and furry artwork has appeared on commercial apparel.
Webcomics featuring animal characters are often created by furry fans; as such, they may be referred to as "furry comics". One such comic, T.H.E. Fox, was first published on CompuServe in 1986, predating the World Wide Web by several years.
Fans with craft skills often create their own plush toys, sometimes referred to as plushies; others build elaborate costumes called fursuits, which are worn for fun or to participate in parades, convention masquerades, dances, or fund-raising charity events (as entertainers). While many fursuits feature simple construction and resemble sports mascots, others feature sophisticated construction that includes moving jaw mechanisms, animatronic parts, prosthetic makeup, and other frills, which may cost their creators as much as $1000. Some furry fans pursue puppetry, recording videos and performing live.
Some furry fans create anthropomorphic animal characters in order to engage in role-playing sessions on the Internet; these characters may be used in MUDs, on Internet forums, or on Electronic mailing lists, and are known as fursonas. The longest-running online furry role-playing environment is FurryMUCK (although it was predated by the GE-run BBS called The Beastie Board in which conversation occasionally led to role-play). Another popular online furry social game is called Furcadia, created by Dragon's Eye Productions. There are also several furry-themed areas and communities in the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Second Life. An online gaming community called Skotos currently offers a furry roleplaying game called Iron Claw Online and Right Brain Games is currently making a furry MMORPG titled Antilia. Iron Realms Entertainment is also currently developing an MMORPG, Earth Eternal, which will feature anthropomorphic animals as playable races.
Sufficient interest and membership has enabled the creation of many furry conventions in North America and Europe. The largest of these is Anthrocon held annually in Pittsburgh in July . A convention called Further Confusion, held in San Jose each January, closely follows Anthrocon in scale and attendance. The total attendance for furry conventions exceeded 9130 in 2005, an increase of 13% since the previous year.  In 2006, more than 25 such conventions took place around the world. The first known furry convention, ConFurence , is no longer held; Califur has replaced it, as both conventions were based in Southern California.
Many conventions feature an auction or fundraising event, with the proceeds often donated to an animal-related charity. For example, Further Confusion has raised more than $62,000 (USD) for various charitable beneficiaries throughout its eight-year history , and Anthrocon has donated more than $66,000 (USD) to animal-related charities since 1997.  In September 2004, Mephit Furmeet raised more than $15,000 for an organization known as Tiger Haven.
The phrase furry lifestyler is used to describe people with beliefs similar to those of animistic religions and philosophies, such as Shamanism and Otherkin. Some furry lifestylers believe they have a totem animal that watches over them, or that they are the reincarnation of an animal spirit.
Some lifestylers also adopt physical attributes of an animal, such as hair styles, tattoos, and clothing or jewelry that emulate the physical appearance of animals. Instances of people such as Stalking Cat and The Lizardman undergoing extensive body modifications are well documented (as broadcast on the Discovery Channel program Humanimals: Wild Makeovers) although extremely rare.
The phrases furry lifestyle and furry lifestyler first appeared in July 1996 on the newsgroup alt.fan.furry during an ongoing dispute within that online community. One group within furry fans believed that any peripheral interest not directly relating to furry art, literature and fantasy should not be directly associated with the fandom, while others believed that the definition of what constituted furry could only be decided by the individual. The dispute was resolved by the creation of the newsgroup alt.lifestyle.furry in August 1996, created to accommodate discussion beyond furry art and literature. Members of this newsgroup quickly adopted the term furry lifestylers.  Among many furries, the fandom and the lifestyle have been considered separate social entities since that time.
Other subcultures, such as the were or therian communities, share similar beliefs with furry lifestylers, but wish to distance themselves from the term furry, as their beliefs are not necessarily connected to furry fandom. Furthermore, they perceive association with what they describe as a "cartoon fandom" as "trivializing" their beliefs. 
A survey which examined social and sexual attitudes in furry fandom conducted by David J. Rust published as The Sociology of Furry Fandom, interviewed 360 respondents (325 in person, 35 online). Rust's results indicated that in regards to sex:
A more recent survey by the University of California, Davis Department of Psychology, was made in 2007, with the results published in May 2007. Over 600 people took part in the survey, although not everyone completed the survey. 81% of the people who took part were men and 19% were women. This survey not only looked into the sexual aspect of the fandom but also examined past-times and political views.
Survey results included:
The survey also published some other results. 89% of the respondents are white, 83% were American, most are students (38%), most do not own a fursuit (82%) and earned less than $50,000 per year (90%). Also, around half take part in furry-related internet friendships, chat rooms and blogging, whilst 42% attended conventions, a third attended parties and around a sixth took part in art auctions.
Politically, 40% of respondents described themselves as "Liberal" or "Very liberal", compared to the 7% who were "Conservative" or "Very conservative". 35% were "Not political" or "Other", and 16% were "Moderate".
Early portrayal of furry fandom by the media was considered unflattering and sensationalist by many furry fans. In particular, articles in Vanity Fair and Loaded magazines, the syndicated sex column "Savage Love", and dramatized fiction or documentaries on television shows such as ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Drew Carey Show, and Sex2K on MTV focused sharply on the sexual component of the fandom. Furry fans have argued that these media portrayals are misconceptions. Although some sensationalist coverage still persists in the tabloids , the trend in recent years has shifted toward more balanced reporting as the general public has become more aware of furry fandom. A newspaper article published in 2006 noted that "despite their wild image from Vanity Fair, MTV and CSI, furry conventions aren't about kinky sex between weirdos gussied up in foxy costumes,"  but instead about "people talking and drawing animals and comic-book characters in sketchbooks."