Paleofurs— The Anthropomorphic Fans of the Past

21 Feb 2014 | Phil Geusz

In many ways I’m not a very typical fur. I’m almost fifty-three as I write this, work in a blue collar field, and have little to no interest in furry art or artists. (I’m into furry fiction to the near-exclusion of all else, fandom-wise.) I don’t have a “furry-name” or “fursona”, and my first fursuit, if I still had it, would be older than the word itself. I would never have heard of half the fandom-famous anthro-cartoon characters if it hadn’t been for the fandom itself, because I was already an adult—even in many cases middle-aged—when the programs aired and became part of the rest of the fandom’s childhood. Perhaps most tellingly, I was thirty-seven years old before I ever heard the word “furry” used in its fandom sense. In other words, I lived most of my life in the universe that existed before there was a furry fandom, and remember it well.

This world was the world of the “paleofur”. The time before any of us knew there were others like us, who shared our interests and tastes. Before the internet brought us together, in other words, the long, long era when being a fur was a terribly lonely and to some degree even shameful thing.

One of my other great avocations is history, particularly military history of the early and middle twentieth century, and I continually read books on the subject. While I’ll admit that while I’ve made no dedicated effort to dig up paleofurs, having no idea of where to even begin looking, I’ve sort of kept my eyes open along the way for clues in the hope of coming across a kindred soul or two. And so far that’s exactly how many candidates I’ve come across—two.

The first I was very, very lucky on. Over a decade ago I was reading about P-47 strafing tactics during the latter part of World War Two when I came across a link on P-51 ground attacks. This in turn led me to an article…

…written by a man who claimed to have made several combat P-51 sorties over Germany at the very end of the war in a bunnysuit.

Now, I’m familiar with the fact that American flyers were often issued big, puffy coveralls called bunnysuits meant to keep them warm at altitude. This was most emphatically not one of those. The pilot in question, who had a nice eight- or ten-page website, said that he’d written home to his wife for a warm one-piece garment, and she’d sent him a bunny suit complete with ears and tail. Since it was all that he had that was warm and fit well enough he sort of had to wear it. (Longtime furries like myself, I’m quite certain, can take one look at the previous explanation and know a bowl of complete mush when they see it.) At any rate, as near as I can recall he flew two or three sorties right at the war’s very end in the thing, and slept in it as well despite what must’ve been a truly titanic wave of wisecracks coming his way. This man, I submit, was clearly a paleofur.

Sadly, I came across this truly excellent website very late at night and didn’t finish reading it (though I noted it hadn’t been updated in some time). I carefully bookmarked the page and got back to it about a week later. But it was gone. My guess is that the gentleman passed away. I failed to even note his name, which saddens me greatly. And no, I no longer have the bookmark—that was at least five computers ago. At the time I never dreamed I’d ever write an article on the subject or anything like that—the fandom was still far too small to have generated much in the way of a demand for such and showed few signs of ever getting to be a tenth the size it is today.

My second paleofur “find”, while less certain, was a huge shock. It was Winston Churchill—you may’ve heard of him. While I’ve covered the subject in some depth elsewhere, I’ll point out quickly that he owned and loved to play with children in a fursuit (gorilla), exchanged what looks very much like modern furry RP letters with his wife all the way down to her playing a cat and he a dog, and also (though this is entirely subjective) was enormously creative and artistically gifted, traits which seem quite common among furs. (He won a Nobel for literature and was a gifted-enough watercolorist that many experts agree he was a significant artist of the twentieth center totally apart from his political and literary life.)

So, I can hear my gentle readers asking right about now. Furries have existed in the past as well as the present. This is no great surprise.

No it’s not, really. After all, we see half-humans featured in Egyptian and even cave-wall paintings as well. Wondering what it’s like to experience the universe from behind the eyes of another species is probably nearly as old as sentient man. But what’s fascinating to me are the common threads, the similarities and sense of brotherhood that we—or at least I, being a former paleofur myself—instantly feel once the connection is made. More than a few social scientists and probably a fair number of psychologists and psychiatrists as well have looked with wonder upon our fandom and attempted with greater or lesser degrees of effort to figure out what makes us tick. I would submit that one valid approach to the truth would be to study the lives of those who were demonstrably furry before there even was a supportive fandom-base to welcome them out of the wilderness, who can’t be said to have simply joined a highly-accepting fandom for social support, but who instead revealed their inner furriness only at the risk of social censure, sometimes quite intense.

So, I’m making a rather bold suggestion here. To the best of my knowledge, I’m the only one in the world so far who’s taken any real interest at all in the paleofur phenomenon, and I’ve mostly gotten a whole lot of nowhere. At least a small percentage of the fandom, I think, might be at least marginally interested in a web page devoted to collecting information on more paleofurs; our cultural furfathers, so to speak. Such a page would be fun, educational, and perhaps might even serve as a useful research tool for the sociological types. I’d do it myself, but I’m so computer-inept (and exist so far from the social centers of the fandom) that my efforts would certainly be doomed before I even began.

Is anyone else out there interested?