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Anthrocon 2012 & IARP 2-Year Summary

This summer our team made great strides in advancing our knowledge of the furry fandom.  First, we once again conducted a large-scale survey at the world's largest furry convention, Anthrocon 2012, breaking our previous records for number of surveys collected by gathering 1,065 surveys in just three (very busy) days!  Additionally, for the first time ever in our team's research, we collected a large-scale representative control group of 802 average, non-furry Americans from the general population through the use of an online survey (recruiting participants through the website Mechanical Turk); this allowed us to compare our furry sample to a control group of average Americans, allowing us to better draw conclusions about the furry fandom. 

Finally, Courtney "Nuka" Plante went back through several years worth of data collected by the team in order to more firmly draw conclusions about several contentious or seemingly varied findings.  While data from any one particular source or study may be flawed or limited, the combined data from several studies over the last three years helps to strengthen many of our findings, and will be presented in their aggregate form below.  These data include results from Furry Fiesta 2011, the International Online Furry Survey, Winter 2011, the International Furry Survey, Summer 2011, Furry Fiesta 2012, and Anthrocon 2012. 

Items from the Anthrocon 2012 survey reflected several new topics of interest for the IARP researchers, including an investigation of general knowledge about animals, the functional role of fantasy in the lives of everyday people, the role of bullying in psychological development and a more broad investigation of well-being, including physical, psychological and relationship well-being.  Additionally, the researchers attempted to answer several new questions raised by furries during panels and in e-mails in the past year, including demographic questions such as political orientation and annual income, religiosity, the most popular websites/artists sought out by furries, further elaboration and definition of Therians as a group and, perhaps our most contentious/controversial topic to-date: an investigation of Bronies and Brony culture!

Summaries of these data are presented below, along with basic statistics whenever possible and some conclusions/inferences based on the findings.  As always, if you have any questions, would like clarification of an issue, would like to recommend a change or future question, or have a suggestion for a follow-up analysis to be conducted, please e-mail Courtney "Nuka" Plante at: 

Please also note that all data collected is presented here in aggregate (summarized) form, and there is absolutely NO identifying information in the data.  We have no way of tracing responses back to the original respondent (this is an anonymous survey). 

Summary of questions:


Q1: How old are furries? (Multi-Study Summary)
Q2: Are furries mostly male? (Multi-Study Summary)
Q3: What religious beliefs do furries have?
        a.  What religions do furries belong to?
        b.  Are furries religious/spiritual?
Q4: Do furries have children?
Q5: Other Demographics
        a.  Do furries have well-educated parents?
        b.  Are furries typically liberal-minded?
        c.  Do furries endorse beliefs of global citizenship?
        d.  How much money does the average furry make? 

Furry-Specific Statistics

Q6: How long has the average furry been in the fandom? (Multi-Study Summary)
Q7: Just what does "Furry" mean, anyway?
Q8: Do furries think they're human or not? (Multi-Study Summary)
Q9: How much does the average furry know about animals?

Furry Sub-Groups: Bronies (and Pegasisters)

Q13: What is a "brony"?
Q14: How many furries are bronies?
Q15: How do furries feel about bronies?
Q16: Do furries/bronies consider bronies to be a part of the furry fandom?
Q17: Why do people tend to dislike bronies?
Q18: Bronies and Furries: A Comparison
        a.  How are bronies different from furries?
        b.  How are bronies similar to furries?

Furry Culture

Q19: What are the most popular artists among furries?  The most popular websites?


Q20: So is it true: Are furries more gay than the average person? 

Furry Psychology

Q21: Is fantasy healthy, or dysfunctional?
Q22: Do all furries have a history of bullying?
Q23: Are furries maladjusted/broken people? 


Q1:  How old are furries? (Multi-Study Summary) 

One of the first questions we ask on our surveys, every year, is for participants' age.  While our research has, until very recently, been limited to participants over the age of 18, we have, nonetheless, been able to discover relatively consistent patterns in the ages of furries and of different portions of the furry fandom, as seen in the table below. 

Average Age (Years) of Group

The table reports the average age of various groups of participants in four of our previous studies.  As you can see, the age tends to be relatively young, with the majority of furries (over the age of 18) tending to be in their early-to-mid twenties.  Of particular interest is the finding that con-going furries tend to be, on average, a bit older than furries in our online samples.  This, we believe, is due to the fact that conventions can be particularly expensive to attend, requiring a level of expendable income (not to mention transportation) that may be more affordable to those in stable careers (which are more likely for those in their mid-twenties than for those in their late teens and early twenties).  It is worth noting, for future research, that samples obtained at conventions do differ in some ways from online participants, and may thus not be fully representative of the entirety of the furry fandom. 

That said, the research collected to-date suggests that, these issues aside, the furry fandom tends to be a relatively young one.  To be sure, there are still a number of furries in the fandom well into their 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s, but the general trend seems to be that of a younger fandom.  Whether this is due to older furries simply leaving the fandom as other factors intervene (e.g. family, career, loss of interest), or whether this is due to a rapid growth in the fandom in recent years remains to be seen, and will hopefully be addressed, at least partially, in our research team's upcoming Furry Longitudinal Study. 

Q2:  Are furries mostly male? (Multi-Study Summary) 

Similar to the above question, one of the other questions we typically ask early on in a survey is for participants' biological sex.  We do, of course, recognize that there is a distinct difference between one's biological sex - whether their bodies are male, female, or have undergone surgery/hormone therapy - and one's gender, which is the product of environment, societal influence, and experience.  These have been discussed at length in our previous findings, and for now, we will focus solely on biological sex ratios (% of the population that is male) in the furry fandom as they have been found in several of our studies (it should be noted that male--> female or female--> male transformation individuals, as well as Klinefelter's Syndrome (XXY) and other variant individuals, have been excluded from the following analysis solely for the purpose of ease of data presentation, and not on the basis of any judgments of normativity or triviality.)

% of Group Self-Reporting as Biologically Male 

As you can see from the above figure, the furry fandom, far more than the general population (the most representative control group of which is seen in the AC12 Non-Furry group), tends to be predominantly male.  Whether sampling from the online fan community or from furry conventions, it seems to be the case that approximately 80-85% of the furry fandom is biologically male.  The reasons for this primarily male composition have been discussed in our past research summaries, and while it may continually be debated why it is that the fandom is so heavily populated by males, the more interesting question, from a social psychological perspective, is whether there is an anticipated change in this gender proportion over time.  Several of the researchers believe, in line with current social psychological theory, that, over time, as more and more females trickle into the fandom, it will become more socially acceptable for females to be present in the furry fandom (as illustrated by descriptive norms of females seeing other females in the fandom), potentially increasing the rate in which females enter the fandom.  Future research on these ratios of males/females in the fandom (along with other measures of attitudes toward women in the fandom, as perceived by males and females) will allow us to test these hypotheses.

Q3:  What religious beliefs do furries have?

a. What religions do furries belong to?

In an attempt to replicate some of our past findings,
we asked furries to indicate, in an open-ended question, what their religious affiliation, if any, was.  These results were coded and organized into several groups, seen in the below figure. 

% of Furry Population Self-Describing as one of the Following...  

The data suggest, in line with past findings, that approximately half of furries self-describe as either atheist or agnostic.  Additionally, again in-line with past findings, nearly a quarter of furries describe themselves as Christian in one form or another.  Among the remaining quarter of furries, several describe themselves as belonging to Paganism or Wicca, with other mentioned beliefs including Judaism, Buddhism, Satanism and, for approximately 14% of furries, something not falling into any of the aforementioned categories. 

It appears that when it comes to the furry community, beliefs can be as diverse as furries themselves are, though there are some clear tendencies toward atheism/agnosticism and/or Christianity as predominant beliefs among the majority of furries. 

b. Are furries religious?  Spiritual?

While it is one thing to ask furries whether they identify with a specific spiritual belief or group, it is another thing to ask furries whether or not they actually consider themselves to be religious or spiritual.  For example, a person may self-identify as a Jew or a Catholic, having been raised as such, but may not consider themselves particularly religious or even actively participate in their religion (e.g. not attending mass or celebrating religious holidays). 

We asked furries to indicate, on a 7-point scale, the extent to which they considered themselves to be religious or spiritual (1 - Not at all, 7 - Very much).  In general, furries did not consider themselves to be particularly religious, with an average score of 2.51.  That said, many more furries considered themselves, if not religious, to be spiritual, with an average score of 4.09.  This may suggest that many furries, while not adhering to the teachings or subscriptions of a particular belief system (or outright shunning the concept of organized religion itself), may nonetheless feel some sense of spirituality.  It may also indicate a sense of spirituality or mysticism that is remote or detached from religious belief altogether (e.g. a sense of nature worship or appreciation/reverence for the universe that does not involve a set of religious beliefs). 

Regardless, the data suggest that furries are more likely to identify themselves as spiritual than they are religious, though it should be pointed out that 4.09/7.00 is still just barely over the midpoint of the scale, and many furries would not describe themselves as spiritual or religious at all. 

Q4:  Do furries have children? 

As a follow-up to a question in our previous survey, asking furries to indicate the extent to which they had siblings, we asked furries to indicate whether or not they had children.  Research suggested that, in fact, very few furries have children (likely owing to the fact that most furries report being single or in non-married/committed relationships where childbearing is not an intended outcome).  The data suggest that about 3.8% of furries report having at least one child.  As a potential follow-up to this question in future surveys, the researchers may be interested in gauging furries interest in one day having children, to see whether the relatively low proportion of furries with children is merely a product of the fandom's relatively young age, or whether it is indicative of a lack of interest, among furries, in having children. 

Q5:  Other Demographics

a. Do furries have well-educated parents?

In comparison to our online control group, furries were found to have parents with approximately equal levels of education; that is to say, on average, furries tend to have parents who have completed high school and at least some college/ post-secondary education or training.  There is, of course, a tremendous amount of variability in this, as furries come from all walks of life.  On average, however, furry parental education did not significantly differ from that of non-furries.  Therefore, parental education is unlikely as a causal factor explaining why people "become" furries.  

b. Are furries typically liberal-minded?

Participants were asked to indicate, on a 7-point scale ranging from 1- Conservative to 7 - Liberal, their political orientation.  While this scale is imperfect for a number of reasons (not the least of which is failing to distinguish between social and economic conservatism/liberalism), it has nonetheless been used in past psychological research and was used for exploratory purposes.  The data found that furries, on average, were statistically significantly more liberal than the non-furry control group (5.04 vs 4.59; p < .001).  It remains to be seen whether this was because liberal-minded individuals were are more likely to be drawn to the furry community, whether the furry community makes people more liberal-minded, or whether it is due to some combination of both of these factors (something which will likely be investigated in the Furry Longitudinal Study).  

c. Do furries endorse beliefs of global citizenship?

Global citizenship is the belief that one's in-group, or the group of people they consider to be part of the group to which they belong, is inclusive of all people, and is reflected in items such as concern for people in other countries and consideration of the broader, global consequences of one's local behavior.  Furries, because of their self-professed open and inclusive nature, were hypothesized to score higher on a measure of global citizenship as a result.  This was, indeed the case, as furries' scores were statistically significantly higher than those of control participants on the global citizenship scale (5.16 vs 4.98, p =.001).  

d. How much money does the average furry make?

Several furries had asked our research team whether it was true that furries tended to come from more privileged backgrounds, or whether furries were more likely to have careers in technical fields that would allow them to earn more money and thus have a higher socioeconomic status.  We asked participants to indicate how much they earned annually, in $USD.  Interestingly, contrary to what was hypothesized, there was no statistically significant difference in the average amount of money earned by furries than was earned by members of the general American public ($31,772 vs $31,470).  

Furry-Specific Statistics

Q6:  How long has the average furry been in the fandom? (Multi-Study Summary)

Just as interesting, if not more interesting, than asking about the age of the average furry, are questions surrounding the number of years furries have engaged with various aspects of furry.  This can include the age in which they first identified as a furry, the age in which they first encountered/joined the furry community, and the number of years they have been an active member of the furry community.  We have asked these questions, in various forms, across a number of different surveys.  The data are presented below. 

Number of Years/Age of Furries at Various Milestones, Across 5 Studies

In the first row, "years a furry" refers to the average number of years participants in the sample reported having considered themselves a furry for.  It should be noted that the average furry has been a furry for approximately 6.5-8.5 years, a figure that makes sense when you consider that, on average, furries report having self-identified as a furry at the age of about 16-17, and the fact that the average furries is in their early-to-mid twenties. 

Two interesting facts emerge from this data.  The first shows that, in spite of there being next to no significant differences between Anthrocon-going furries (AC2011 & AC2012) and online furries (IARP-I, -II, -III) with regard to the age in which they first became a furry, there were, nonetheless, differences in the number of years they had been furries - likely owing to the fact that convention-going furries tend to be a bit older.  It may also suggest, perhaps a bit intuitively, that the longer furries have been in the fandom, the more likely they are to attend large conventions such as Anthrocon (at very least, it makes sense that furries who have been in the fandom for longer should be more likely to attend conventions - a costly endeavor - than those who have only just gotten into the fandom).

The other interesting fact is that while furries tend to identify themselves as furries, on average, at age 16-17, the average furry did not become a part of the furry community until age 17-19.  This means that for the average furry, there is a 1-3 year gap between the time when they discover the fandom/identify as a furry and the time when they come to associate or consider themselves a part of the furry community.  Many furries have offered, as anecdotal evidence, stories from their own experience of feeling "weird" or "alone" in their furry interests before finally "stumbling upon" or "accidentally discovering" a community of like-minded individuals.  We are particularly interested in the immediate and long-term benefits of this discovery on the well-being and self-esteem of those who, up to that point, may have felt stigmatized and alone in their interests. 

Q7:  Just what does "Furry" mean, anyway?

For the purpose of our research, we tend to avoid imposing a particular definition of the term "furry", preferring, instead, to define furry in the same way one would identify membership in other groups: "you're a furry if  you identify was one", regardless of what that may mean for the individual.  While many use a definition of furry along the lines of "an interest in anthropomorphism", there can be as many definitions of furry as there are self-identified furries. 

As a way of demonstrating and investigating the potential implications of this multifaceted definition of furries, we strove to identify three related components of "furry".  Seen in the figure below, we asked furries to identify the extent to which they "identify yourself as a furry", "identify with other furries", and "identify with your fursona species" - three distinct ways of interacting or showing an "interest" in anthropomorphism.  Participants indicated the extent of their identification with each of these components on a 1-7 scale, ranging from 1 - Not at all, to 7 - Completely.

% of Furries Indicating Degrees of Agreement with each of Three Possible Ways of Showing Interest in Anthropomorphism 
Looking at the blue and green bars, it seems that the concept of identifying as a furry and identifying with one's fursona species are quite closely related, with ratings of the two quite highly correlated (r = .67, p < .01).  In contrast, identifying with other furries seems less slightly less connected to the concept of identifying as a furry (r = .63, p < .01) or to the concept of identifying with one's fursona species (r = .49, p < .01).  While the three of these are nonetheless strongly positively correlated with one another, they are not one and the same, and the patterns in the data seem to suggest that while many furries highly identify as furries and highly identify with their fursona species, they are more reluctant to highly identify with other furries; whether this means a reluctance to identify with all other furries or with the stigmatized furry community as a whole remains to be seen.

This data does suggest, however, that there is no simple definition of what furry is or ought to mean, and that for many people furry, far from reflecting a simple interest in a concept, is bound up in issues of personal identity, an interest in a particular animal species, and their interaction with others in the community.   

Q8:  Do furries think they're human or not? (Multi-Study Summary)

One of the most frequent misconceptions about the furry community is the belief that members of the furry community are defined by a desire to become (or genuine belief that they are) a member of another species.  Frequently misstated in news reports and by people claiming to speak about furries, this misconception is frequently misstated by furries themselves who, more often than not, will make claims about what "the majority of furries believe" based on what they and perhaps the furries in their vicinity believe.  In numerous surveys, we have asked, in various forms, the question of whether furries believe they are less than 100% human, whether they would be 0% human if they could, and the nature of these beliefs.  The data are presented below. 

% of Furries (and General American Public) who Agree with Various Species-Related Questions

The data presented in this figure represent five separate studies (left-most column), with their range illustrated in the second-bottom row.  In the bottom row, the control values (values as given by members of the general American public) are presented when available. 

When asked if furries believed that they were less than 100% human, between one quarter and one half of furries said yes, a value 3-6 times higher than that of the general population.  44% represents a particularly high estimate of the number of furries who believe this, and, typically, this value hovers at around 30-35% of furries.  While this may seem like a lot, it is nowhere near the claim that "most furries believe they are not human" frequently made, and it should also be noted that this question is asking whether furries consider themselves less than 100% human, not 0% human (so a furry who felt 99% human would qualify as feeling less than 100% human).  Additionally, we asked furries whether they felt more than 100% human (that is, human with something additional), and got numbers in approximately the same range.  To summarize, about 1 in 3 furries believes that they are not completely, 100% human. 

When asked about the nature of their feeling less than 100% human, only 8-14% of furries reported that it was a belief that, physically, they felt less than fully human.  In fact, far more furries reported that the source of their feeling less than 100% human was mental or spiritual, where they felt, for example, that they had the spirit, mindset, psyche or senses of an animal in an otherwise human body. 

When asked if they would be 0% human if they could, between a third and a half of furries said that they would, a number approximately 5 times greater than the average American population.  This, again, means that it is inaccurate to describe furries as people who "wish they could be animals", as this would be true of only half of furries at best.  The data suggest that while these feelings may be greater in the furry population than the general population, they are neither necessary nor sufficient to define "furry", and the experience of many furries does not include beliefs/feelings of/ desire to become an animal.  In the section on therians data will be presented suggesting that belief that one is somehow not entirely human, be it physical, spiritual, or psychological, is better used to define a different, but related group. 

Q9:  How much does the average furry know about animals?

Our past research has shown us that many furries feel a sense of attachment to their particular fursona species, and in many instances believe, often truthfully so, that they know more about their species than the average individual does (for having researched the species, spent great amounts of time learning their habits, their characteristics, etc...)  We wondered, given that many furries have this knowledge of their own fursona species, and given that they spend time with other furries who presumably know a significant amount about their own fursonas, whether furries, through this shared knowledge and through sheer exposure to the knowledge of the community, would come to know more about animals and animal trivia than the average person would.  To this end, a 33-item trivia quiz about general animal knowledge was given to participants.  The test was in a true/false format, with the option to choose "I don't know". 

The trivia quiz was marked such that 1 point was given for each correct answer, a point subtracted for each incorrect answer, and a score of "0" was given for an answer of "I don't know".  As predicted, furries, out-scored the general population on the quiz, with scores statistically significantly higher than the general population (11.5 vs 8.9, t(1666) = 8.02, p = .001).  Far from being localized to items about any one particular species, furries were found to significantly out-score non-furries on 22/33 of the items.  On 8 of the items there was no statistically significant difference.  On 3 of the items furries did more poorly than the average person, owing primarily to furries thinking they knew the correct answer when, instead, they would have been better off, as many in the general population did, acknowledging that they did not know the correct answer. 

In general, these data provide the first hint of evidence that furries do, indeed, seem to have greater knowledge about animals, as a group, than the general population.  Whether it is the case that participation in the fandom increases one's knowledge about animals, or whether those with greater knowledge of animals are drawn to the furry fandom, is a question which may be answered through longitudinal research, which will help to establish the direction of causation.   

Furry Sub-Groups: Bronies (and Pegasisters)

Q13:  What is a "brony"?  

A brony, simply put, is an (often male, but not always) older (late teens and upward) fan of the animated television series "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic".  The brony fandom is, in many ways, comparable to the furry fandom in its interest in anthropomorphized animal characters (not unlike the furry fandom's association with series such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Disney movies such as The Lion King or Robin Hood, etc...)  It can be considered related to, but not a sub-set of the furry fandom (as many bronies do not self-identify as furries). 

There has been a tremendous demand, from both bronies and from the broader furry fandom, for research on bronies (so much so, in fact, that another research team has conducted extensive research on the subject from a non-furry perspective: ).  The reasons for this demand differ greatly: many furries have been interested in the rapid growth of the brony fandom and are curious about its influence on the furry fandom.  Others oppose the perceived intrusion of the brony fandom on furry fandom, claiming that it is ultimately detrimental to the furry fandom.  Some endorse negative stereotypes of bronies as being maladjusted or socially awkward, while others claim that the fandom is overrunning less popular or mainstream portions of furry fandom. 

Regardless of the reason for their interest, many furries were curious to know more about the brony phenomenon.  As a result, numerous questions were asked on the subject of bronies during our Anthrocon 2012 study.  The data are presented below.  For a non-furry perspective on the larger brony fandom, we encourage you to view the aforementioned website ( ) to learn more (including more brony fandom-specific questions, such as favorite characters, episodes, etc...)!

Q14:  How many furries are bronies?  

One of the misconceptions regarding bronies is that they represent an "influx" of "new furries" - that is, that they are people who were formerly not furries but, after seeing the television show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, they began to self-identify as a furry.  Several pieces of evidence have since dispelled this claim, including the finding that nearly one-quarter of the furry fandom (23.5%) self-identify as bronies.  While it is possible that the majority of these furries represent "new furries", it would represent a fairly significant influx of furries into the fandom (a growth of nearly 25% in less than two or three years).  Additional evidence also dispels this hypothesis: the average brony reports having been a furry for significantly longer than the average non-brony furry (9.4 years versus 8.3 years, p = .03), and reports having become a furry at a younger age than non-brony furries (16.4 years versus 17.4, p = .03).  Were it the case that self-identified bronies were "new furries", we would not expect these findings. 

In sum, contrary to several existing stereotypes, a wave of "bronies" did not "invade" the furry fandom from the outside, but rather the popularity of the show seems to resonate with approximately one-quarter of the furry fandom. 

Q15:  How do furries feel about bronies?  

We have claimed above that some furries (and non-furries, for that matter) hold relatively negative opinions about bronies, while others tend to hold more positive views.  The data below illustrate this point (click to enlarge).  

Furries and Bronies Rating Bronies on a 0-100 Scale

Participants were asked to rate bronies on a 0-100 scale, ranging from "Extremely Negative" (0) to "Extremely Positive" (100).  The blue bars represent the percentage of non-brony furries who rated bronies at each level of positivity.  There are two prominent spikes in the data: 17% of furries who rated bronies extremely negatively, and about 23% of furries who rated bronies about "50" on the scale.  Another cluster of furries rated bronies rather positively.  On average, furries tended to rate bronies about a 50, though, as you can see here, this average is the product of particularly polarized views - with some furries expressing extreme dislike of bronies and others expressing extremely favorable attitudes toward bronies.  Perhaps, unsurprisingly, bronies had a rather high opinion of other bronies, rating them fairly high on average.

Looked at another way, the data suggest that about 36% of furries held relatively positive views of bronies, while 38% of furries had a relatively negative view of bronies.  About 26% of furries claimed that they were ambivalent regarding bronies. 

In sum, there is a wide range of attitudes held toward bronies in the furry fandom - some are accepting and feel positively toward the brony fandom, while others are particularly disdainful of their presence in the fandom.  There does seem to be evidence, at very least, that the stigmatization felt by bronies in the fandom is not necessarily imagined. 

Q16:  Do furries/bronies consider bronies to be a part of the furry fandom?  

Part of the animosity felt toward bronies may have to do with the perception of bronies as "invading" the furry fandom, a fandom which, past research has shown, is particularly important to the identity of many furries.  Evidence suggests there may be some truth to this claim: about 22% of furries claim that there is absolutely no overlap between the furry fandom and the brony fandom - that they are two distinct entities.  In contrast, 28% of furries say that there is at least some overlap between the furry fandom and the brony fandom, and fully 50% of furries claim that the brony fandom is a part of or subset of the furry fandom.

This data suggests that, far from being a clear-cut issue, many furries may disagree about the location of the brony fandom relative to the furry fandom - a non-trivial distinction.  Research in social psychology suggests that seeing a person or a group as belonging to a group that you, yourself, belong to (your "ingroup") leads you to hold a more favorable impression of that group.  Whether or not bronies are considered furries may have a considerable impact on the positivity felt toward them: a regression analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between the extent to which a person considered bronies to be a part of the furry fandom and the positivity they felt toward bronies (Beta = .28, p < .001), lending support to this idea. 

Q17:  Why do people tend to dislike bronies?  

While there are many furries who hold positive opinions of bronies, it raises the question of why so many furries feel negatively (or at least ambivalent) toward bronies.  We asked participants, if they held a negative attitude toward bronies, to indicate why they felt that way.  These responses were coded and fell into a few commonly held themes:

- 17.4%: They're obnoxious, excessive, or attempt to force their culture on others

- 15.0%: They're just not the same as furries

- 13.0%: Just a general dislike for them

- 12.3%: Don't dislike the culture itself, but dislike specific bronies

- 11.9%: It's unimaginative, a fad, shallow, or one-dimensional

- 11.5%: It's silly, dumb, or immature

It seems that there are at least a few commonly held complaints or opinions regarding bronies and brony culture.  In future studies it may be possible to test the tenants of some of these beliefs, to determine whether there is any merit to the complaints or stereotypes of the brony fandom.  In the meantime, it is worth noting, with perhaps a touch of sad irony, that many of these same complaints are complaints that have been leveled at the furry fandom by non-furries (demonstrating that it is still quite possible for members of a stigmatized minority group to, themselves, stigmatize others). 

Q18:  Bronies and Furries: A Comparison?  

a. How are bronies different from furries?

Is the distinction between a furry and a brony a meaningful one, or is it simply a description of a difference of taste/ fandom content?  We ran several sets of analyses to determine whether there were any significant differences between furries and bronies on a number of indicators of well-being, history, and personality.

The data revealed three statistically significant differences between furries and bronies.  First, it seems that, compared to furries, bronies seemed to experience worse physical health (4.60/7.00 vs 4.86/7.00, p = .005).  Admittedly, the reasoning for this difference in physical health was unexpected and, for the moment, has escaped our ability to explain, though future research may help shed light on this difference (and whether it is a consistent one). 

Secondly, the data suggest that bronies, as compared to furries, have a less-formed sense of identity (4.22/6.00 vs 4.32/6.00, p = .05).  While this difference is quite small, on average, it is statistically significant.  This means that bronies are slightly less likely to have formed a coherent and stable sense of self identity. 

Finally, the data suggest that, on average, bronies experienced greater amounts of bullying than did furries (2.85/4.00 vs. 2.71/4.00, p = .04).  It should be pointed out that while these differences in bullying were consistent throughout their entire lives (under age 10, during the teenage years, and into adulthood), the difference is most prominent during the ages of 19-24.  This may be indicative of the fact that many bronies experience significant bullying as a result of their self-identification as bronies (given that, due to the recency of the show, they could not identify as a brony until recently).  Whether or not a history of being bullied is one of the factors that drove bronies to self-identify with other bronies remains to be seen in future research, but the possibility of this explanation is also discussed in Q22, with regard to furries, below. 

b.  How are bronies similar to furries? 

While the data have shown several statistically significant differences between furries and bronies, the vast majority of analyses revealed that, for the most part, furries do not tend to differ from bronies.  There were no age or sex differences between the groups, nor does either group differ in the extent to which they identify as a furry, identify with other furries, or identify with their fursona species.  They are not more likely to believe they are less than 100% human furries, nor are bronies any more or less likely to wish they were 0% human. 

Furries and bronies held the furry community in equally high regard.  They were also equally likely to consider their fursonas to be representative of themselves.  Additionally, there were no differences in sexual orientation, relationship status, relationship satisfaction or education level between furries and bronies.  Finally, furries and bronies did not differ in terms of their psychological well-being or self-esteem. 

In sum, with only a few minor exceptions, furries and bronies are relatively indistinguishable from one another beyond the differences in the content of their fandom. 

Furry Culture

Q19:  What are the most popular artists among furries?  The most popular websites?  

We have been asked, many times in the past, to study what the most common themes, groups, sub-cultures, websites, artists, and interests are among the furry fandom.  We have documented many of these in past research findings, but of particular interest in the most recent research was an open-ended question asking furries to indicate their three favorite furry artists and/or furry-related websites.  The result was a list of more than 1,100 unique websites and artists listed, indicating the immense diversity of interests and content within the furry fandom. 

Because of the impracticality of displaying such a list, the top-ten most popular furry websites and artists, as selected by furries, are summarized below:

1. Fur Affinity
2. SoFurry
3. e621
4. deviantArt
5. Inkbunny
6. Fchan
7. WikiFur
8. Funday Pawpet Show
9. Bad Dragon
10. F-list

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the above websites are art-related websites, illustrating the importance of visual art to many furries.  Also of interest is the the fact that at least five (and arguably more) of the top 10 sites contain or are directly affiliated with adult-rated material.  While this does not in any way mean that furry fandom should be trivialized as a fetish (nor does it suggest that an interest in it is a purely sexual one for furries), it does provide evidence to dispute claims that the furry fandom is relatively devoid of adult art or that adult art is merely "a few deviants" within the fandom.  Instead, it suggests that for many furries (as is true with humans in general, particularly when it comes to 18-24 year old males), sexuality is a healthy part of their psychology, which can manifest itself, artistically, through their interests and hobbies (in much the same way that car magazines have pin-up girls on the covers, for example). 

1. Blotch
2. Dark Natasha
3. Wolfy-Nail
4. Jay Naylor
5. Zen
6. Red Rusker
7. Tanidareal
8. Rukis
9. Kyell Gold
10. Narse


Q20:  So is it true: Are furries more gay than the average person?  

In the past we have attempted to address the question of furry sexual orientation, but were ultimately plagued by insufficient or non-generalizable control groups.  In this most recent study, however, we were able to collect data on more than 800 members of the American general public, which allowed us a far better group to compare our furry population to with regard to sexual orientation. 

Sexual Orientation (7-Point Scale) of Furries and Non-Furry Control Participants

We asked participants to indicate, on a 7-point scale ranging from "Exclusively Heterosexual" to "Exclusively Homosexual" where they felt they fell with regard to their sexual orientation.  The blue bars in the figure above represent the general American population, while the red bars represent our furry sample.  As should be readily apparent, furries were far less likely to report being exclusively heterosexual than the general population (in which 80% of the population reported exclusive heterosexuality as their sexual orientation).  Additionally, furries reported being 4-5 times more likely to consider themselves exclusively homosexual than in the general population, and were much more likely to report varying degrees of bisexual sexual orientation.  Additionally, furries were more than 6 times as likely to report "other" as their sexual orientation than the general population of Americans (15.0% versus 2.4%), with other representing orientations such as "pansexual", "asexual", and a variety of self-identified orientations. 

In sum, there is ample evidence to support the claim that, as compared to the general population, there is a much higher prominence of homosexuality within the furry fandom.  That said, it would be inaccurate to define the furry fandom as "predominantly homosexual", as the most frequently-cited sexual orientation among furries is still "exclusively heterosexual". 

Furry Psychology

Q21:  Is fantasy healthy, or dysfunctional?  

One of the researchers, Courtney "Nuka" Plante, has recently been investigating the role of fantasy in people's day-to-day lives.  In particular, he is investigating whether there is truth in the commonly-held stereotype that people who tend to engage in excessive fantasy (both extreme fantasy content and excessive amounts of fantasy) tend to be maladjusted.  

To this end, he has created a scale distinguishing between (and assessing) healthy fantasy engagement and pathological/unhealthy fantasy engagement, a scale which was developed, refined, and tested over the course of two separate furry studies. 

The furry data regarding fantasy has suggested, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the extent to which a person identifies with the furry fandom predicts the extent to which they engage in magical thinking, engaged in fantasy thinking as a child, and predicts their current engagement in furry-related fantasy activities.  Being "more furry" also predicts greater perspective-taking and empathy, a finding supported by past research on fantasy.

With regard to healthy and pathological fantasy, identification with the furry fandom significantly predicts healthy fantasy engagement (5.40 vs 4.56/7.00, p <.001), but does not significantly predict pathological fantasy (2.62 vs 2.44, p > .05).  This functional fantasy, in turn, has been associated with a healthier and more developed sense of stable identity, more psychological well-being, and a greater sense of global citizenship, while the decreased pathological fantasy is associated with healthier relationships and higher self-esteem.

In sum, data on the fantasy activities of furries seems to suggest that engagement with the furry fandom is a source of positivity for most furries, and suggests the benefits that engaging in fantasy recreational activities can have for people.  This research is currently being extended to other fantasy groups (e.g. science fiction fans, readers of fantasy literature, LARPers, etc...), and potentially to the general population to show how, far from being isolated to just furries, the day-to-day fantasies that most people engage in tend to be healthy and beneficial. 

Q22:  Do all furries have a history of bullying?  

Prompted both by our own hypotheses and by suggestions from numerous furries, we investigated the prevalence of a history of being bullied in the lives of furries (and control participants).  Many furries have suggested that their interest in furry and strong connection to the furry community manifested as a result of feeling like an outsider and being picked on in school, which led to a sense of affiliation with a community of other self-identified outsiders.  We wanted to test whether there was truth to these claims.

We asked participants to indicate the extent to which they experienced different types of bullying at different points in their lives.  The data suggest that even after statistically controlling for the effects of age, sex and sexual orientation, furries were more likely than the average person to experience bullying throughout their life, both physical bullying, such as being beaten up (p < .001) and social/verbal bullying, such as teasing or ostracism (p < .001).  These differences in bullying were particularly prominent during the ages of 11-18, during the age most critical in the formation of a person's identity.  This represents the first hint of evidence to suggest there may be some truth to the lay hypothesis of many furries that they were, indeed, picked on more as children and, as a result, this may have had an impact on their identity and on the groups (in particular, furries) that they chose to associate with. 

With regard to frequency of bullying, 48.3% of furries reported being bullied from the age of 4-10 (as compared to 37.1% of non-furries), 61.7% of furries reported being bullied from the ages 11-18 (as compared to 39.2% of non-furries), and 15.1% of furries report being bullied from the age of 19-24 (as compared to 10.2% of non-furries).  This suggests not only that furries are more likely than the average person to be bullied (almost twice as likely during the age of 11-18), but that the majority of furries report having been bullied at some point in their lives.

Future research will further investigate the role of bullying in the development of identity in furries, and to determine whether engagement in the furry fandom had an ameliorating (counteracting) effect of bullying.      

Q23:  Are furries maladjusted/broken people?  

Prompted primarily by commonly-held stereotypes of non-furries, we aimed, as we have done in past research, to test whether there was any merit at all to the claims that furries, for their extreme interests and fantasy engagement, were maladjusted or otherwise psychologically unhealthy individuals.  And, new to this year, we are able to test the well-being of furries against the general population.  We were also able to include several different measures of well-being, whereas in previous years well-being was limited to scales of self-esteem and life satisfaction.

As compared to non-furries, furries did not differ significantly from the average American with regard to self-esteem (5.06 vs 4.92/7.00, p = n.s.), with regard to psychological health (5.04 vs 5.14/7.00, p = n.s) and with regard to the health of their relationships (4.92 vs 5.02/7.00, p = n.s.). 

That said, there was one statistically significant difference between furries and the average American when it came to well-being and adjustment: furries did, in fact, have a better sense of coherent identity and a more-developed sense of self than the average American (4.31 vs 4.15/6.00, p <.001). 

In sum, as the research has demonstrated over the last several years, there are numerous interesting differences between furries and non-furries which make them a particularly exciting and eclectic group to study.  The difference, however, is not one of dysfunction. 

Courtney Plante,
Jun 12, 2014, 7:51 AM