What is a "furry"?
A "furry" is an animal with human characteristics, i.e. humanoid shape, and/or intelligence (Also sometimes known as "anthropomorphs", "zoomorphs", or just "morphs"). There are several types of furries (depending on your particular point of view). The broadest definition includes:
Does a "furry" have to have fur?
No. The word "furry" refers to any animal with human characteristics. This includes birds (Big Bird), reptiles (the T.V. show Dinosaurs), fish (merfolk), and even insects (the Honey-Nut Cheerios bee), not just mammals.
How long have furries been around?
The concept of the "animal-man" has been around for at least 35,000 years! Some of the earliest primitive artwork contains humans with animal heads. Many ancient religions worshiped gods who had or could assume animal form. Ganesha (A Hindu god, with an elephant form), Zeus (A Greek god who often took the form of a bull), and Horus (The Egyptian god of the sun, who was often portrayed as a falcon) are just a few examples. Even in Christianity, animal references abound. Jesus Christ is often referred to as the "Lion of Judah" and the "Lamb of God", and many medieval paintings depicted Him as a lamb.
Intelligent animals have long played an important role in literature, being the basis for such classics as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Wind in the Willows, Animal Farm, and Aesop's Fables.
It's hard to place an exact date on when furry as an organized "fandom" began. Some trace it back to the first "furry party" at WesterCon 38 in 1985. Some say it started with Rowrbrazzle, in 1984. Others say it began with Vootie, in 1976. Some say it's just sort-of gradually evolved, and never had a fixed beginning. However, it's undeniable that the fandom is growing, at a phenomenal rate. In 2004 there will be some 18 furry conventions worldwide, and some of which are expected to have over 2000 attendees! There are furry fans on every continent and in virtually every country that has regular Internet access. The media has begun to take notice of the fandom, and has done several magazine and TV news articles. The furry fandom has even been the subject of an episode of the popular TV series C.S.I. (though the depiction of the furry con in that episode was highly exaggerated and utterly fictional.)
What do you mean when you say furry is a meta-genre?
Furry is a meta-genre, in that it crosses many different genres. There are furries in science-fiction, in fantasy, in cartoons, in children's books, in mainstream literature, in mythology, in religion, etc. It is not so much a subject in itself, but rather, it encompasses many other subjects.
Aren't furries just for kids?
Or, the other commonly asked question,
Isn't all furry stuff pornography?
No to both questions. Furries range from the extremely childish (Barney or Lamb Chop), to the extremely adult (Associated Student Bodies or Omaha, the Cat Dancer), and every shade of gray between. Depending on your point of view, you may see a huge amount of furry erotica, or a huge amount of furry children's fare. In reality, there's a great deal of material that lies in between. For instance, George Orwell's Animal Farm would appear on its surface to be just a children's story, but it's actually a clever commentary on the Communist Revolution.
Furry erotica? Is that like bestiality?
No. Bestiality is humans having sex with normal animals. Furries are animals with human characteristics, such as intelligence, speech and usually, humanoid form. Furries are intelligent and can communicate for themselves whether or not they wish to have sex. Normal animals do not possess such attributes, and are unable to make such a decision based on rational thought. A furry could weigh the consequences of their actions, an animal cannot.
Furries are creatures of fantasy; if they actually existed, they would be treated as aliens, rather than as ordinary animals.