By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Furries can be as kid-friendly as Bugs Bunny, but a lot of furry art has an erotic edge. Because furries afford animals every aspect of human behavior, there is a strong sexual component to their human-animal hybrids. That's why some artists warn on their Web sites that the material is not suitable for those under 18, but instead of beaver shots, there are, well, shots of naked beavers. Half-clad cat ladies may purr in provocative poses on the sites. Others show body-builder rhinos stroking hideously engorged members, or lions doing it doggy-style in bed.
As Paracelsus says a few days later, "I'm not saying that I don't appreciate images of naked human females, 'cause I do. But the addition of the exotic it adds an element of cuteness."
Case in point: the 1973 animated film Robin Hood. What's considered by many people to be among the worst Disney movies ever is a touchstone with furries. As far as they're concerned, it was one of the first furry feature films and really grasped the concept of anthropomorphism. It also introduced furries to a certain female fox who continues to capture their hearts.
"Can you honestly tell me that Maid Marian is not attractive?" Paracelsus asks.
The samurai jaguar is on the prowl.
If he could, Shrag would stroll lithely through the halls of the Hobby Airport Marriott like a true member of Panthera onca. Instead, he walks like a fortysomething techie in an $800 animal costume.
A fan mounted inside the foam head keeps the temperature tolerable, if not exactly pleasant, as he cautiously plods past booths overflowing with sci-fi paraphernalia.
Shrag figured the sci-fi convention would be an appropriate place for the debut of his fursuit, and he's glad he did it. Despite the fact that the suit affords no peripheral vision, and that perforated plastic eyeholes obscure his forward line of sight, Shrag feels buoyant. He loves the attention, especially from the kids.
A father approaches with a cute toddler. Through the eyeholes, Shrag can't even tell if the kid's a boy or a girl. Whatever the gender, the child gushes at the sight of the samurai jaguar, emits a joyful yelp of "Kitty!" and reaches to stroke the animal's soft, smooth fur.
More than a year after the convention, the encounter is still one of Shrag's fondest fursuit memories.
"My heart melted," says the 46-year-old, who asked to go by only Shrag, a name he took by combining "shred" and "frag." He likes fursuiting for one reason: It makes people happy. "It gives me kind of a vicarious thrill to have people laugh it just feels good," he says.
Shrag says his parents and non-furry friends don't have any major problems with his fursuiting. "They think I'm a little weird, but that's okay," he says. "I don't mind being considered a little weird. Makes life interesting."
Growing up in Galveston, Shrag rescued stray animals and loved watching cartoons on TV, particularly The Pink Panther. When he was six or seven, kids in his neighborhood formed a Pink Panther fan club.
He stumbled onto furry Web sites just over three years ago, got hooked and saw his first fursuiters at a 2000 Memphis convention. The next year, he was awed by Masquerade, skits performed by fursuiters at the biggest convention, Anthrocon.
Shrag ordered a $580 jaguar suit online and spent a few hundred more customizing it. A longtime sword collector and martial arts fan, Shrag created a "samurai jaguar" fursona, complete with a robe, black ponytail wig and hakama -- the skirtlike pants worn by samurai. A hand-forged katanasword on his hip was the final touch.
Last year, he and his friend, a fox who goes by Hali, performed their first Masquerade skit in front of nearly 1,000 furries at the Philadelphia Adam's Mark Hotel.
Their sketch, "Proof of Marriage in the Animal Kingdom," received a lukewarm response, mostly because Shrag and Hali had a tough act to follow.
In the previous skit, a black rabbit aborted the script by getting down on bended knee to ask his otter girlfriend to marry him. Overcome with emotion, the otter fluttered her paws in front of her eyes and stepped back in disbelief. It was one of the convention's highlights, and quite possibly the only time in history that a guy in a rabbit outfit proposed to a woman dressed as an otter.
Nine-year-old Michael Reed liked the way the sound felt in his mouth, as if he could taste the vibrations. Years before he began howling at the moon, the boy would spend the entire day making that noise, a sound like a sputtering engine.
What he really felt compelled to say was the F-word, over and over, but that got him in trouble. It came out at the worst times -- in class, in front of the cool kids -- and he looked like a freak. There were other things he couldn't explain, like the constant counting, the blowing on the hands or the contorting jaw movements.
After a while, he was able to disguise the flurry of fucks by paring it down to the simple pleasure of the k.