Furry art has been around a long time, but in recent years, it has taken on a life of its own on the internet. It’s more than a life really, it’s a whole world. On the community’s very own Wikipedia-style website, Wikifur, furry art is defined as a “term used to describe artwork depicting anthropomorphic (humanoid or feral) animal characters, fursonas, avatars or personas.” It sometimes goes beyond innocent little drawings. Within the furry art community, there is a subsection of—you guessed it—furry porn; this is otherwise known as yiff.
The term ‘yiffing’ apparently originally refers to the mating sound that foxes make. A definition via Urban Dictionary suggests that it’s “generally harmless and completely unrelated to zoophilia.” Some believe that their community is completely misunderstood and thus, stigmatised. It is because of the sometimes negative or sexual connotations of the term ‘furry’ that some artists like to refer to by a different name—’anthro art’. Its definition within the subculture continues to be a polarising issue.
Furry art is a wide-ranging subculture; within it there is a multitude of variations (some of which are listed above). The most known and common expression of furry art is typically referred to as ‘humanoid’ artwork. Wikifur defines a humanoid furry as “a character with basically a human body […] [they] are upright-walking characters with animal heads, fur, tails, and sometimes paws or claws.”
Some in the community argue that this is a requirement for a character to be referred to as a furry. Examples I found that would fall under this category are characters like Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Lola Bunny (from Space Jam) and more recently, Judy Hopps from the 2016 Disney film Zootopia.
Art that doesn’t depict humanoid bodies—for example, characters that have animal bodies and walk on all fours—are often described as ‘non-anthro.’ Examples would include characters in films like The Lion King, Ratatouille, Bambi and more. The parameters behind these definitions are still debated among the furry community. Many would disagree about the examples I have given myself. Wikifur writes, “Others favour a more exclusive definition, arguing that only those images and media created by individuals who operate within the social boundaries of the furry fandom and whose output is distributed primarily inside of the fandom’s channels should be considered to be furry art.” Mainstream movie versions may not count. These furries really care about their definitions but who are they?
A furry (or plural furries) is a term that is used to describe the fandom behind furry art. In an article about the furry community, Vox writes that the term “encompasses a wide spectrum from people who are simply fans of TV shows and video games featuring anthropomorphic animal characters (like Sonic the Hedgehog or Pokémon), to people who develop a highly specific furry character (‘fursona’) they identify with, to ‘otherkin’ who see themselves as not fully human on a spiritual or mental level.” Furries’ love for their artwork goes beyond being two-dimensional; a minority participate in dressing up in ‘anthro’ animal costumes—with some places having their own conventions.
Let’s have a look at the other types of furries Vox mentions. A fursona, I have discovered, is a combination of the words ‘furry’ and ‘persona’; it refers to an avatar, alter-ego furry character (usually a fictitious or mythical animal) that a furry may use as their online identity. A VICE article goes into more detail about ‘otherkins’ and their own community, “Otherkins are people who identify as partially or entirely nonhuman. A dragon, a lion, a fox—you name it—there is probably someone out there who feels like they are more these things than they are human. [They] can be found lurking on Reddit […] and other online forums.” As you can see even within furries themselves lies a multitude of various subcultures. It is an extremely passionate and diverse community.
This is a very debated question and there still doesn’t appear to be a straight answer. There are a number of sites that are dedicated to more ‘adult’ versions of furry art but also ones that are simply for art. Courtney “Nuka” Plante, PhD, a professor of psychology and co-founder of Furscience conducted a study where he found that “Furries were also most likely to report an interest in sex (e.g. pornographic content) as a motivator of fandom participation relative to other groups.”
Furries however seem sick of being cast as sexual deviants. Plante also notes however that it is not their primary motivator to participate in such a community and isn’t unlike any other fandoms that sexualise their characters. Perhaps furry art itself is not inherently sexual but simply can’t escape the internet’s pornification of everything. I mean, have we forgotten about hentai?