They’re gonna take you back to the past
I first discovered the Twitter account @ancientfurries after seeing a tweet on my timeline featuring artwork of two dapper bears drawn by Raphael Tuck. After submitting a picture of the cover of C. J. Cherry’s The Pride of Chanur, I became enamored with the account’s concept: bringing out everyone’s inner furry through an appreciation for art with an unknowing appeal to the internet’s most famous animal lovers.
As with any subculture, furries occupy a niche part of the internet that most never see. Whether it be a weird foreign animated cartoon or a local business’ furry mascot, “Unintentional Furries” shares it all. This endeavor isn’t meant to point and laugh, but to admire and share these moments of recognizable furry appeal. Rather than be ironic, this collection of cultural artifacts is sincere, curious, and inclusive of a wide definition of what constitutes “furry” art.
I spoke with Khyme, the person behind the account, about how they got into the project, what they’ve learned from it, and how furries have existed since the dawn of man.
Blake P.: What initially inspired you to make this account? Was it a general love of furries, or a more specific interest in art history/culture’s fascination with anthropomorphic animals?
Ancient Furries: There are quite a few reasons why I started this. The thing that initially inspired it was a post on Tumblr I came across of the Lion-man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel (my profile pic) to which someone had added something like “Humanity is blessed with creativity and the very first thing they do is invent furries.” That got me thinking about the similarities between the furry fandom today and many past cultures.
I also was interested/confused by the furry fandom itself. Why does it even exist, why is it so huge and still growing, and why have even I of all people been drawn towards it?
I’ve also run a kinda loose aesthetic/art blog on Tumblr for the past few years. I only ever had a few followers but I was doing it more to just to find and store art I like for inspiration. So I decided hey, why not do the same thing but market it to furries, and then it just kinda blew up outta nowhere. I was really surprised no one else was doing it already.
B: What are some of your favorite examples of “ancient furries” you’ve seen/posted to the account? Are there any kind of pieces that speak to you in particular, like old merchandise, medieval paintings, etc.?
AF: I only post what I really like but some of my favorites are the postcards by Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel as I’m really into that art deco style. I also really like Max Ernst’s paintings and I liked learning about how he basically had a bird fursona (Loplop). Really, doing this has been very cool because I’ve found many artists and types of art that I’ve never seen before. Like I’m not that well versed in art history, I didn’t know the names of many artists. Just went in museums and enjoyed it, not knowing much about the artists and movements behind them.
B: Do you have any personal experience with the furry fandom? Did you ever draw furries or engage in media/literature already popular with the furry fandom?
AF: Not until more recently. I actually unfortunately used to be on the other side of things, I was a horrible cringe culture motherfucker who made fun of furries. Then to my horror, I started to realize that I was one. I was in denial for the longest time, convinced I was consuming furry content out of “irony” but I reevaluated some stuff and here I am today.
As an artist I have drawn a few anthro animals but I refused to acknowledge them as being “furry” until recently.
B: There are lots of famous cultural examples of “ancient furries” like the Aesop fables and tons of mythological figures like Bastet. Do you have any theories as to why anthropomorphic animals have been resonating with people for so long?
AF: Humans in general just like creating and imagining things and imagination needs sources, and what are better sources than ourselves and the next closest thing, animals?
We like to imagine animals acting, thinking, and looking more like humans so we can relate to them better. Humans are the only sentient life that we know of and we’re on a planet with trillions of other beautiful vibrant creatures that won’t ever understand us. It’s hard to accept that. I think we all just kinda lonely and wish we didn’t feel so separate from the rest of life on Earth.
B: Do you think animal sports mascots are their own thing entirely? Or do football, baseball, and team mascots blur the lines between the mainstream and the niche?
AF: I mean a fursuit is a fursuit, but I don’t feel society at large both in and out of the fandom considers them to be the same.
B: Do you have a favorite animated movie with anthropomorphic animals? There are popular examples like Zootopia, or are you into more obscure stuff like the Hungarian Vuk cartoon and the adult-oriented Fritz? Do you feel like the public is ready for different kinds of cartoons featuring talking and walking animals?
AF: I thought Zootopia was pretty cool, not my favorite but I definitely feel it’s important to furry culture. Never seen that Hungarian movie. I only just recently saw Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz after seeing part of it used in a fan-made music video for Thundercat’s “Oh Sheit, It’s X.” I’d seen his film Wizards and really liked it so I thought I’d check it out.
It’s kind of a mess but I still loved it. Between all the racial stereotypes, vintage furry porn, and odd pacing, there some genuinely impactful scenes and social commentary. Some of my favorites growing up (still now too) I guess would be Don Bluth films like All Dogs Go to Heaven and Secret of NIMH. Guess I like cute cartoons going through dark shit. Also, Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox.
B: How old would you say content with anthropomorphic animals needs to be considered “ancient” furry content? Or do you just ballpark it/leave it up for interpretation?
AF: Ancient furries is just a name, not a rule. I just post whatever I think is cool and what other people might not have seen before. If I am posting something that might be considered early furry stuff like Vootie or Robert Crumb, I just try to keep it from when they were still saying “funny animal” instead of furry.
B: Are you familiar with Colin Spacetwinks’ essay “Everyone’s a Furry 2k16?” Your account reminded me of it and of how long subcultures of furries have been around. Do you think people need to have an appreciation for the weird furry past to fully appreciate new furry arts?
AF: I just read it now. As someone who had never really been part of the furry fandom until recently, it really helps provide some context, like I know the history with Vootie and all that but not as much the more personal experiences.
I’m not sure. Like, say you see a cool drawing of dogman and you just like it, I don’t feel like you gotta know anything about the fandom’s past or present. Like I think being a furry can mean whatever you want it to mean. I don’t feel you gotta know the entire context of an art piece to appreciate it. It can certainly help, but I feel everything is up to interpretation
B: What kind of content would you like to see be posted more on the account? What would you like to have people send more of?
AF: I mean anything you think is cool and might not be known by other people. Abstract expressionist paintings, ancient artifacts, music videos, an obscure animation even like maybe a mascot for a local business, a mural on a van, an ad, hell, anything.