Furry Demographics

We at [adjective][species] have a wealth of furry data at our fingertips. Our primary source of information is the Furry Survey, an annual survey that has been running more or less continuously since 2008. The 2015 Furry Survey is currently open at www.furrypoll.com.

Makyo and I both run occasional [adjective][species] panels at conventions, which usually start with a broad demographic overview of furry. (From there we dive into certain topics in depth.) Here on the site we tend to mostly talk about specific topics, but it’s the general demographic data that often generates the most interest at the panels.

With that in mind, I thought I’d present some broad demographic data. I’ve adapted this from my Confuzzled 2015 panel. What follows is a snapshot of furry.


First: a note on the data. The Furry Survey is voluntary, which means that our dataset is self-selecting. It’s not possible to perform a census of the whole of furry, so we only know about furries who fill in the survey.

We can make some general comments about the quality of our data:

  • Our dataset is large enough to provide consistency year in, year out. We don’t see big changes in furry demographics over time. Importantly this has been the case regardless of how the Furry Survey has been publicized and shared: from LiveJournal back in the day, through to Twitter, Reddit, and advertising on furry websites.
  • Our data matches closely with the data collected online by the scientists at the International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP), with the exception that they are unable to collect data from minors (under 18).

It’s probably reasonable to guess that we collect data from ‘more engaged’ furries. Furries who are only peripherally involved with the community are probably less likely to fill in the survey. The same probably goes for older furries, because the responsibilities of age—work, family, whatnot—will naturally dilute the influence of furry for a lot of people.


Age

Furries have an average age of 23, with a peak at about 19, and a long tail of older furries.

Age distribution of furries. The peak age is about 19.
Age distribution of furries.

The average age increased by only about a year between 2009 and 2013. This suggests that furry is growing, with new young furs joining the community and offsetting the natural ageing of the group. It also suggests that furries drop out as they get older, or at least become less likely to fill in the survey.

We can be confident that furry is growing by looking at the change in attendance at furry conventions.

growth
Data from Wikifur

This growth rate isn’t large enough in itself to account for the consistency in furry’s age demographics over time. Therefore we think that older furries do tend to drop out of the community at a certain rate, which we can estimate: the half-life of a furry is something like 10 years.

Gender

Furry consistently shows an approximate 80/20 male/female split (read more here). This holds true whether you ask about sex or gender:

Furries, 2008 to 2013 by sex
Furries, 2009 to 2013 by sex

 

Furries, 2009 to 2013 by gender
Furries, 2009 to 2013 by gender

It’s well known that men and women often experience the same thing in different ways, and this is true within furry. For example, women are significantly less engaged with furry compared with men, and are also much more likely to be artists:

Proportion of furries who are artists, by gender
Proportion of furries who are artists, by gender

We also know that female furries are less likely to attend conventions, even considering that women may be a majority in the Dealer’s Den. This varies from con to con, and Anthrocon appears to be an exception, with a disproportionately high number female attendees (23%) in 2015.

Species

We have a terrific species visualization here on [a][s]. You can explore species popularity by sex, gender, and sexual orientation.

Click for interactive species data visualization
Click for interactive species data visualization

Sexual Deviance

Collectively, furries are evenly spread across the Kinsey spectrum, from heterosexuality to homosexuality.

Furries, 2009 to 2013 by sexual orientation
Furries, 2009 to 2013 by sexual orientation – closer to red is more homosexual, blue heterosexual

It’s a remarkably even distribution. As you can see, furry is significantly more heterosexual than homosexual, a fact sometimes obscured by our 80/20 male/female split.

Furry Survey data shows that new furries are much more likely to be heterosexual, with an obvious trend towards homosexuality over time.

Years in the fandom vs. sexual orientation
Years in the fandom vs. sexual orientation

Furries tend to re-evaluate their sexual preference in the first five years or so of joining the community. Read more about this phenomenon here.

Unusual sexual interests appear to be common in furry. The most striking of these is zoophilia—about one in six furries self-identify as a zoophile—but other sexual interests are also unusually visible.

It’s hard to say whether we are, collectively, engaging in a lot unusual sexual behaviour, or if we’re simply more open about it. I talked about this at my Confuzzled panel and got the same, excellent question from several people – how can we say if data on furry sexuality is unusual if we don’t have this data for the general population? (Alternate phrasing: how prevalent is zoophilia in the Women’s Institute?)

It’s well known that people will to deny sexual deviance when asked – consider that UK government statistical analysis estimates the proportion of homosexuals to be 6%, whereas just 1.5% identified as such on the latest UK census. Tolerance and openness about sex is one of the hallmarks of furry. It doesn’t mean that we are unusually sexually driven.

For example: sex appears to be more important to furry than it actually is. We ask furries about how important sex is to them personally (blue line), and how important sex is to others in the fandom (green line). As you can see, the collective furry guess is way out – sex isn’t as important to (other) furries as it seems.

94-importanceofsex

(Note on the scary red line: this is the furry guess of the importance of sex as perceived by the public. It’s not what the public really thinks.)

Religion

Furries are largely areligious. Most of us are atheist or agnostic, and many more identify with something non-mainstream such as Pagan or as some bespoke “other”.

38-religion
Furry by religion

About a quarter of furries identify as Christian, the most popular religion by far. For comparison, 71% of Americans, 67% of Canadians, and 60% of Brits identify as Christian.

We asked for more detail when furs responded “other”. Something broadly atheistic was the most common response by far. If you’re interested, you can explore the data (it’s kinda fun) here.

Psychological Wellbeing

The IARP have looked at furries and psychological wellbeing in some detail. This work includes a specific study that was performed at Anthrocon in 2013.

The key conclusion, which is supported by years of research and confirmed by the Anthrocon study is simple enough: “[furry] is not associated with any significant decrements in well-being (psychological, physical, or relationship), self-esteem, or sense of identity.”

(I thought it would be better to quote from the scientists, rather than drawing on Furry Survey data. Their conclusion is a rare one in the world of sociology and psychology, simple and pithy.)


The Furry Survey was founded by Klisoura, also one of the founders of [adjective][species]. The intent of [a][s] was, in part, to host the Furry Survey and be a home for presentation and analysis of the results.

A few things have changed around here since 2011 but that primary goal remains as strong as ever. We still host the Furry Survey, and we regularly publish analysis of data from there and elsewhere. We’re getting better too: the Furry Survey was revamped for 2015, and a peek at early results confirms that we will have a lot of interesting information on furry and furries in the future.

Those of you who attended my panel at Confuzzled will recall that I presented some preliminary results from the 2015 survey. As I said then, we will look at that data in detail here on [adjective][species], but only once the survey is closed at the end of this year. In the meantime, anyone who has yet to complete the Furry Survey can do so at www.furrypoll.com.

You can explore all the results from the Furry Survey, from 2009 to 2012, with our alpha Furry Survey Explorer. Be aware it may take a few minutes to load due to the wealth of data.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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8 thoughts on “Furry Demographics

  1. I would like to address the following from the article:
    “Furry Survey data shows that new furries are much more likely to be heterosexual, with an obvious trend towards homosexuality over time.

    Furries tend to re-evaluate their sexual preference in the first five years or so of joining the community.”

    First off, I could have sworn I posted a comment to a past post about this but it wasn’t on the one linked and I wouldn’t know how to search for it elsewhere.

    My comment is essentially that this phenomenon may be due in large part to a different cause, namely that gays are more likely to stay in the fandom longer while heterosexuals are more likely to lose interest and drop out. The fact that furry fandom, on the whole, is quite welcoming of gays and enables them to be more open about it (whereas in other areas of their lives they might have to downplay it if not keep it secret) might increase their likelihood of staying involved in the fandom longer, whereas this is not particularly an advantage for heterosexuals.

    Of course, how much of this is due to shifting one’s orientation over time vs. the dropout rate is a matter of speculation. Hopefully the IARP’s longitudinal study will shed some light on this question.

    This also brings up another question I have for the IARP team, one that relates to the distribution across the spectrum of sexual orientation and how furries compare to the general population. Have there been studies done to measure the effect of being around openly homosexual people on one’s own perceived sexual orientation? As an example, consider two groups. Group #1 spends virtually all their time in a “hetero-normative” atmosphere, much like you find many places today, where anyone who isn’t straight and cis-gendered keeps it low-key if not actually in the closet. Group #2 spends at least a fair bit of time with LGBT folk who are open about their orientation. One could speculate that many in the first group identify as completely straight because they’ve never really considered that they might be anything else, or are afraid of the implications if they’re not, whereas those in the second group are less afraid and more open to such thinking. Such studies, if they exist, wouldn’t necessarily be on furries (and probably are not) and likely weren’t done by the IARP team, but would be among the body of work they could refer to. The point is that almost anyone who has been active in the furry fandom is going to be in group #2 just because of their fandom activity, whereas many among the general population would fall into group #1, and if you’re going to compare sexual orientation in the fandom to the general population, is that something that could be controlled for? Could you, for instance, compare furries to non-furries in group #2?

    1. Thanks for the comment Mwalimu, and your point is a good one. My analysis—that furries tend to reevaluate their sexual preference over time—is inferred from the data we have. It is not data in and of itself.

      The numbers, also inferred, of the furry drop-out rate don’t really support the idea that a large proportion of furry heterosexuals lose interest and leave within the first five years or so. However that’s not to say that it’s wrong, and I’m inclined to agree that it is likely a factor in the change in sexual orientation demographics.

  2. Hello, I am really glad that you guys do this stuff, and believe it or not the data actually has helped me in some stuff, but are there any other surveys from earlier periods, I need data from relatively 1981 the post pre fandom period and onward. If you have the early surveys that’s great, if someone else was doing it at the time, that’s find to. — thanks in advanced

    1. Hi UNP. I’ve been thinking about this and I think you’re going to struggle to find much data from that time period. The internet enables the Furry Survey, which dates back to 2008 or so, which is the earliest fandom-wide survey (of a reasonable scale) that I’m aware of.

      Before that, there is some information that can be gleaned from the alt-lifestyle.furry Furvey, which was shared around on Usenet and saw a few hundred responses starting from the late 1990s. We at [a][s] haven’t ever had anything to do with the Furvey, but we have informally made reference to it from time to time. If you have a search around on Google you’ll be able to find some collated data, but be warned it’s unlikely to be in a useful format.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful. And if you do turn up anything from that era, please let us know – we’d love to take a look.

  3. A thought re: mwalimu comment:

    Also you were speaking of attendees losing interest after 10 or so years, well for the heterosexual population that would generally correspond to having children and no longer having the time, money, or energy for Furry Cons or any other con.

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