John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
You might live in a hotbed of people named AssassinWulf and Keenora Fluffball and not even know it.
Furries! Perhaps you've run into these animal enthusiasts, bumbling around in bulky costumes that are half-sports mascot, half-animatronic musician from Chuck E. Cheese's band. Or maybe you are a furry, in which case I say greetings, Zume Frostpaw, Jasper Nightlynx, AssassinWulf, or whatever your "fursona" name is!
Folks wanting to spend more time with furries—or less, due to an irrational fear of cartoon foxes entering the physical world—might be happy to know there's a tool for tracking them called the "Heat Map of Furries World-Wide." Made with geolocated data on nearly 7,500 furries, the bestial atlas uncovers dense clumps of rainbow hair and giant, anime-style eyes in the United States, Mexico, South America, England, and Germany ... oh so many furries in Germany. (Guten tag, Schattenwolf, PolarbaerInu, and Keenora Fluffball!).
But perhaps we should back up a minute and answer the question, "What's a furry"? Somebody who commented on the map explains it this way:
Furries, in a nutshell, are big fans of Anthropomorphic animal characters, usually to the point of having their own character (fursona) that they use as an avatar in the community. Furries are first and foremost a community, which is what draws most of them I suspect. It's a place where you can create an idealized or fantasy version of yourself to interact with others with. That snowballs into tons of art and interaction shared amongst the group. Conventions are huge (here in Pittsburgh we have a big one, maybe the largest in North America?) There is a big sexual element for many, but not all. Furry Porn (yiff) is common, and less-common is fursuit sex. (Fursuits, unsurprisingly, are costumes of furry characters).
How did the person who made the heat map, Reddit's direwoof—who has not responded to a request for comment—learn enough about this elusive tribe to map it? Does the government tag and track furries in the manner of whales and grizzlies? Anything is possible these days, but this map is actually based on user-submitted profiles on another "Furry Map" made by a Germany-based coder. That's caused some critics to complain it's presenting a skewed version of the world's true furry distribution.
And they do seem to have something of a case. "Yeah, one look at Japan told me how wrong this map is," notes one commenter, referencing the Land of the Rising Sun's rising furridom. Another skeptical commenter figured "there has to be at least 1" furry in a state as large as Texas. (If there is, it's gotta be Toughset the Armadillo, who "can roll up in a ball... but prefers not to, due to lack of coordination.")
But much of the map appears accurate if we can assume furries, like so many subcultures, clump up in urban areas. "I live in Orlando, FL. I can confirm there is a dense population of Furricus-Sapien," says one dude. Another person adds: "As someone who lives a ferry ride away from seattle I can unfortunately confirm."
Here are a couple closer views of earth's packed furry dens: