Bunny Hawkins sports pink hair and a bunny mask at her home in Skowhegan last week. Bunny considers herself a “furry” — those who enjoy dressing like an animal. She has a bunny outfit, and her employer, Walmart, allows her to wear a bunny tail and mask while working. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Bunny Hawkins of Skowhegan really likes bunnies, so she decided to become one.

Bunny Hawkins wears the outfit she works in at Walmart, complete with bunny tail, mask and Walmart vest. Rich Abrahamson/ Morning Sentinel

Bunny belongs to a community known as furries. She wears a bunny tail, ears and a mask. She even changed her name to reflect her inner identity.

When she’s in her “fursuit,” Bunny feels like a Looney Tunes cartoon character, she said.

And that’s the whole point.

Furries are fans of animals that have human characteristics, such as talking or walking on their hind legs.

Like Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, team mascots.


The character you choose is known as your “fursona.” And according to Bunny, a fursona is sometimes just waiting to be acknowledged.

“It’s not something you become, it’s something you realize you are,” Bunny said in a recent phone interview.

The concept of becoming a “furry” originated at a science fiction convention in 1980, according to Wikipedia, which offers the caveat that the origin isn’t exactly clear.

However, the term “furry fandom” was being used in online magazines as early as 1983 and had become the standard name for the genre by the mid-1990s, according to the Wikipedia entry.

“Furry fandom”? The “organized appreciation and dissemination of art and prose regarding fictional mammalian anthropomorphic characters.”

By 1987, there was sufficient interest by people desiring to dress up like their favorite animals to stage the first furry convention.


Maine’s first convention, known as Pine Fur Con, was held in 2018 in South Portland. It was attended by 406 people. The past few conventions have been canceled because of the COVID pandemic, but a convention featuring furries, comics, fantasy and gaming is scheduled for this coming summer, from June 23 to 26, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in South Portland.

Benjamin Santos of Sumner runs a website that lists all such conventions around the country. He plans to be there in June as Hellboy, wearing red face paint and horns.

He’s not a furry, but he has a lot of furry friends, aka “furfriends.”

“Furries are generally very nice people,” Santos said. They’re perfectly nice people who like to dress up in furry costumes.”

He describes the costumes as “suits of armor,” allowing people to express themselves while remaining somewhat anonymous.

Bunny Hawkins displays her Walmart nametag. She legally changed her name to Bunny. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

That is the case for Bunny Hawkins, who says that without her costume, she’s not “completely” expressing herself.


The 30-year-old lives in Skowhegan and works at the local Walmart. She’s allowed to wear her tail and mask at work, she said.

“The dress code is pretty flexible,” she said. “Customers get a kick out of it and kids really like it.”

She’s been a bunny for about a year, she said. It began as a “large quest for self-discovery. I ordered a bunny outfit on a whim and ended up really loving it.”

She’s come to realize that this is who she is, she said.

“It really allows you to be an idealized version of yourself. I still have a lot of social anxiety, but I feel more confident. I feel really good, and I feel like myself when I’m wearing these things.”

Some furries wear full costumes with built-in fans to keep them from getting too warm. Others wear partials.


Mick Pratt of Westbrook wears her “Pixil” fursuit at a convention in Chicago in December.

Mick Pratt, 35, of Westbrook designed her partial costume — and her character. She’s called Pixil, a combination of pixie and pixel.

Pratt belongs to the Facebook group Furries of Portland Maine, which has 252 members. She attended her first furry event in 2016 and got her fursuit in 2020.

She says being a furry is “a fun hobby or fandom. There’s a community aspect and a character aspect.”

She doesn’t feel “super different” in costume, she said.

“It is me, but more. It lets me explore my identity. For some, it’s about hiding their day-to-day selves, but for me it’s about expressing my true self.”

It’s about expressing her femininity as a transgender woman, she said. It’s no coincidence that Bunny, the only other furry who agreed to be interviewed for this story, is also transgender, Pratt said.


A lot of furries — not the majority — are transgender, she said, “not always necessarily transfem. Sometimes transmasc, nonbinary or transfur.”

Mick Pratt of Westbrook Facebook profile picture

The furry community is primed for trans people to explore new identities, she said. “You can be literally whatever you want.”

Her character, Pixil, has been described as “bubbly,” Pratt said. That’s not a big leap from her natural optimism and cheerfulness, she said. “I’ve always been pretty outgoing, but it’s nice to be even more outgoing.”

Pratt, who works at Bull Moose headquarters in Portland as the marketing/social media manager, has attended more than 100 conventions. People go because it’s an opportunity to wear fursuits and to be around other furries, she said.

“You get to interact with others in the same sphere. A lot of people only have digital relationships, so it’s cool to get together.”

Conventions typically include art exhibits, dances, vendors selling fursuits, accessories, books and T-shirts. Breakout sessions are held for specific groups, such as people in fox suits or deer suits, Pratt said.


Her favorite breakout group has been with psychologists who are furries, she said. They talk about why people like being furries.

In fact, the fandom has been studied and analyzed by the International Anthropomorphic Research Project. Co-founder Courtney Plante, a social psychologist, wrote a July 2017 essay for Psychology Today titled, “What’s the Deal with ‘Furries?’” It was subtitled, “What a decade of research reveals about a misunderstood subculture.”

A couple of misunderstandings are that furries have fur fetishes or that they are psychologically dysfunctional, Plante wrote.

“Put simply, furries are fans,” he wrote, “in the same way that “Star Trek” fans are fans of “Star Trek” and sports fans are fans of sports.”

The fandom is inclusive, he wrote, and “embraces the norms of being welcoming and nonjudgmental to all.”

Furries are about 50% more likely than others to have been bullied as children, according to Plante. And data suggest that fantasy-themed activities such as wearing a fursuit can be part of a person’s psychological well-being.


“In the end,” Plante wrote, “furries are no different than anyone else — they have the same need to belong, need to have a positive and distinct sense of self, and a need for self-expression.”

But there is a stigma, Pratt said, explaining why most furries in Maine did not want to talk a reporter.

Mick Pratt, far left, of Westbrook, poses with fellow furries at a convention in Chicago in December.

“You can’t really go a day on social media without negative comments,” she said. “People make fun of you for no reason. It’s bullying because of immaturity.”

The fandom also has seen negative press from the media, she said.

The angle is, “Look at these weird freaks,” she said.

An online publication called Maine Journal News (its motto is, “The news and information you won’t hear from mainstream media”) began a recent article about furries with, “Put your coffees down because you don’t want to spit it out.”


The writer, not identified by name, posted a piece in October alleging confirmed reports of furries employed at Bath Iron Works.

“There are reports of multiple cats, a gorilla and possibly a wolf furry being employed at BIW,” the piece stated.

The writer declined to reveal the source or sources because they reportedly spoke on the condition of anonymity and the information could not be confirmed. Several posts to the story suggested it was rumor and that, certainly, employees were not allowed to wear fursuits at work.

But not everyone ridicules furries, Pratt said.

“It’s a fandom like anything else,” she said, “people expressing passion in a way that’s good for them and having a community for it, a super safe space.”

The cover photo for the Furries of Portland Maine Facebook group.

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