Furries expose 'fursonas' at Ottawa convention

Some furries identify strongly with a particular animal species while others enjoy dressing up in bright, colourful animal costumes. No matter the case, they can expose their 'fursonas' at a conference in Ottawa this weekend.

'Furries are just amazingly creative people'

An Ottawa furry convention, called CanFURence, is being held from Nov. 11 to 13 at the Alt Hotel on Slater Street. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

In his spare time, Ottawa public servant Peter Pau transforms into an anthropomorphic grey and white husky — maintaining his human traits as he steps into his fur suit.

"My hair started going grey in my teens so that's what gave rise to the coloration," Pau said on CBC Radio's All In A Day on Friday, explaining that he has helped organize conferences for other furries like himself in Canada and the United States for 20 years.

"I've been working like a dog at conventions for so long that I'm a working dog."

Pau is meeting up with other members of his "furry family" this weekend at the CanFURence, held at the Alt Hotel on Slater Street in downtown Ottawa from Nov. 11 to 13.

Pau said recent movies, such as Zootopia, have "shone the spotlight on the furry fandom" — something he said wasn't as evident when he joined the community two decades ago.

"It was a bit of a different world in that, these days, geek seems to be the new cool. One's parents don't throw out one's comic book collection when you go off to college anymore — it's okay to say, 'Hey, I'm an adult and I like comic books,' or 'I like science fiction TV shows.' Same thing with us, we still like cartoon shows. We still like those aspects of the arts and literature that are out there today," he said.

Sharon Roberts, a professor of social development studies at the University of Waterloo, specializes in identity formation, including what she calls "fursonas." She compared furries to those who dress up as their favourite comic book, science fiction or anime characters.

​"Someone who is a furry will create this 'fursona,' and it will be a combination of their favourite attributes, potentially of a species that they love, as well as an idealized version of what they want to be," she said.

"When they get together at conventions or in online communities, and they engage in this kind of introspection around their 'fursona' it results in benefits that translate to their everyday lives."

Furries are just amazingly creative people.- Professor Sharon Roberts

Pau said his husky "fursona" hasn't changed over the years because it is focused on his desire to "give back" to the furry community through volunteer work.

"They typically work together in teams, pull sleds and work for the benefit of others," Pau said.

While the most common furries are wolves and foxes, there is a wide range, including hybrid species, Roberts said.

"Furries are just amazingly creative people," she said.

The conference is a chance to gather in fur suits, but Pau said furries can also wear badges to represent their "fursona" while wearing street clothes.

For more information on furries, you can visit

Listen to the full interview here.