Furry Conventions Thru The Years
Updated: Feb 6
Furry conventions have had a truly incredible history since the first one sprung to life in 1989. Over 170 furry conventions have come and gone, with the overwhelming majority still active today. Most conventions started in the 2010s, with around 80 conventions beginning in that decade. Furry conventions exist on every continent on the globe except Antarctica. Nearly every weekend of the year has a furry convention occurring now, with some weekends having as many as six happening at the same time! As furry gets more and more popular, it can be assumed that we will see more and more conventions pop up and more variety in what a furry convention is. Let’s take a look at the history of furry conventions and discuss some fun facts about them! This article will mainly be covering furry conventions from 1989 until 2020. There will be a section at the end about conventions in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
What is a ‘Furry Convention’?
We can generally define a furry convention as a meeting of furries at a venue over more than one day with programmed events. This differentiates a furry convention from a furmeet or furry event. We do our best to include every event that considers itself a furry convention and not a furmeet or general furry event. If you believe we missed a furry convention, whether defunct or active, please contact us!
Conventions thru the Decades
Confurence was the first ever furry convention, taking place in January of 1989. It was the only exclusively furry convention in the 80s, although furries had ‘tracks’ at some sci-fi, animation and anime conventions as well. A track is a group of events and meetups connected to a subcategory of fans or a special interest at a convention. If you’d like to learn more about the history of Pop Culture and Fan Conventions in America I would highly recommend checking out Con History (https://www.conhistory.com/home).
The 1990s saw 11 different furry conventions in existence. There were six in the United States, three in Europe and one in Canada. Only one, Confurence East (1994-96), existed solely in the 1990s. All of the others existed into the 2000s, if only for a few years. 1996 was the only year in which a new furry convention didn’t start up since they began in 1989. Something funny of note is that the only two conventions to ever use ‘Mephit’ as part of their title were created in the 1990s, Mephit Furmeet and Mephit Mini Con. This is a clear nod to the popularity of skunks in the furry fandom at the time, as ‘mephit’ is a latin root of ‘mephitidae’ which is the scientific name for the skunk family. Both of these skunk-inspired conventions are still running, so check them out!
As the 2000s arrived the world saw an explosion of technology! It’s no surprise that the furry fandom grew leaps and bounds during these years when the internet became easier to use and many households now had their own computers. Throughout the 2000s there were 52 different furry conventions, 41 of which started in the new millennium. Only 7 of these conventions would cease to exist after the first decade of the millennium, many of them finding great success and carrying out long convention lives (many through the present day)! Many more conventions would start up in North America and Europe, but this was the decade that also saw furry conventions pop up in Australia, Asia and South America! Although the 1990s had the first furry convention at a campground (Camp Feral!), the 2000s would see cruises, ski resorts and more campgrounds join the roster as locations for furry conventions instead of just hotels, convention centers and event pavilions.
The 2010s would see the largest growth yet. Of the 138 furry conventions taking place in the new millennium, 96 got their start in the 2010s. Much of this explosion in furry fandom popularity can be attributed to YouTube and even easier access to social media websites and blog websites. 2017 was the year that saw the most new furry conventions start up, at a whopping 17. The first, and thus far only, furry convention in Africa, South Afrifur, would also start up in this decade. The 2010s would also see the greatest number of furry conventions closing their doors, presumably due to the stretching thin of interested con staff and the over-saturation of the furry convention market in some areas. But even still, furry conventions are strong and healthy overall!
One final fun fact about conventions over the decades: 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2001 are the only years to have seen just one new convention startup.
Conventions by size
Conventions have varied in size dramatically from roughly as many people as you could fit in a house to over 10,000! Most conventions have started off quite small, only under 100 or a few hundred to start, but in the 2010s it became more common for conventions to close in on 1000 to over 2000 for the first year. It just goes to show that the furry fandom as a whole is growing rapidly.
Only three furry conventions have held the title of largest furry convention. They are Confurence (1989-1999), Anthrocon (2000-2016) and Midwest Furfest (2017-2019). Although 2020 only saw a few conventions due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the largest convention in 2020 was Texas Furry Fiesta. In 2021, Midwest Furfest returned to its throne, and it looks poised to continue that for 2022. Since this article is being published prior to the convention, I will update it once we have their number.
At its largest, Confurence saw 1250 attendees, which is a wild number for a 1990s furry convention. There was no other furry convention to get above 804 attendees in the 1990s aside from Confurence which had four years at over 804 attendees.
In the year 2000, Anthrocon established itself as a dominant force in the furry convention scene, propelled by its move in 2006 to its current location in Pittsburgh. Anthrocon is still hosted at the David L Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh and should be able to stay there for an extremely long time due to its massive square footage.
In 2017, though, Midwest Furfest overtook Anthrocon as the largest furry convention in the world, likely in part due to O’Hare Airport’s being much easier to get to for anyone domestic or international. Midwest Furfest remained the largest convention in 2018 and 2019—in those years, the first and only furry convention to break 10,000 and 11,000 respectively. In 2021, Midwest Furfest was again the largest furry convention with 9332 attendees. It’s likely that in 2022 Midwest Furfest will return to 10,000 or more attendees. Midwest Furfest still remains the only convention to break the 10,000 attendees mark.
Conventions by Global Area
The United States is the country with by far the most conventions, with over 80 that have come and gone. It will be a project for another day, but it seems the majority of states have held at least one convention, even some of the smaller ones! Neither Alaska nor Hawaii has seen a furry convention yet, but perhaps that’s going to change in the coming years!
Europe is the next largest hub of furry conventions, sporting some of the oldest, including the longest-running furry convention still in existence, Eurofurence. Currently Europe has seen nearly 40 conventions over the years.
Asia had a slower start for furry conventions to take off, but they have now seen 17 different conventions and are gaining more and more every year. This is looking to be the next major hub of furry activity as the local furry fandom groups get more and more organized and inspired to run events. We are actively working on better data collection for the Asian conventions, but it will take time as we network with furries out there to help us overcome the language barriers and the differences in which online spaces are used.
Canada was the only other global area aside from the USA and Europe to have a furry convention in the 1990s. Canada has seen 11 furry conventions come and go. Most Canadian furry conventions take place in major cities closer to the Canada/US border. Canada’s conventions have also seen a great burst in popularity recently with international guests, especially Furnal Equinox and Vancoufur!
Although Central and South America have had furry conventions since the early 2000s, it was more recently that the scene really took off, with much larger events now occurring. They have seen 11 furry conventions come and go. It seems there is a new convention being started almost every year and they are advertising to the United States, Canada and Europe to come down and check out their wonderful conventions and cultures. Two conventions in particular really growing in size and pulling in many international attendees would be Confuror and Brasil Fur Fest. Confuror was the first convention in this global area to break 1,000 attendees and it’s looking likely that they will break 2,000 attendees in 2023.
Australia and New Zealand have had a strong local furry fandom since the early 2000s, with some long-standing furry conventions and a few new ones popping up as well! They have seen 10 furry conventions come and go. For a long time these events tended to be overwhelmingly attended by the local furry population as it’s arguably one of the hardest areas to get to due to distance. But recently they have seen a large increase in international attendees, especially with Asian furries coming to more events in this area as the furries from Australia and New Zealand attend more events in the Pacific Islands and Asia.
And finally, Africa! Africa has one furry convention, South Afrifur, but it looks like a really incredible and unique experience. We hope that with time it will get more and more international visits and that more furry conventions around Africa can pop up!
Aside from Antarctica, the one large global area without a furry convention would be the Middle East. There are certainly furries in that area, and so perhaps with time, one day there will be furry conventions truly everywhere!
Well. We aren’t holding our breath about any happening in Antarctica but everywhere else at least!
Conventions in 2020 and Beyond: The Pandemic Times
The years 2020, 2021 and 2022 will always be considered those most affected by Covid 19, even though we will be living with the virus and impacts of the initial outbreak for years to come. But the numbers are still very interesting to look at.
2020 was an incredibly unique year, in that it saw the global crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the world. Only a handful of cons from January to early March were able to run. By our count, nineteen conventions took place in 2020 all over the globe. Four of those actually started in 2020! With the ones that occurred, Texas Furry Fiesta, a convention that’s been seeing a great rise in popularity already, found itself to be the largest that year, with a total of 5296 attendees. Furnal Equinox had one of the most difficult positions of any furry convention, since it was supposed to take place starting the Thursday after the North American shutdown. Luckily Furnal Equinox and many other conventions that had already paid money for goods and had unbreakable contracts were assisted financially by the furry fandom so that they could continue when the world opened back up.
2021 also saw a handful of conventions happen. The first to return were some conventions in Asia and Australia/New Zealand. By our count, 29 furry conventions ran in 2021 with 5 of them starting that year. We saw the first American conventions return in August of 2021, and they still put up some impressive numbers, as folks were so excited to be back with friends. European conventions would see a return in September of 2021. Midwest Furfest would return to its spot as the largest furry convention, as it saw 9,332 attendees in 2021. The way you attended furry conventions also saw change in 2021, with the majority of these conventions requiring proof of vaccination or a recent Negative Covid-19 test and requiring masks to be worn in con spaces. These requirements would carry over into 2022 and seemingly will continue to carry over for 2023.
2022 saw most active furry conventions return. Currently it looks like 74 furry conventions will take place in 2022. This article is being published in November of 2022, so we do not yet have full statistics on this year. Currently Anthrocon had the most attendees this year thus far with 9,702, but if MFF resumes the growth it had been seeing it’s likely it will end the year with the title of largest furry convention.
The Furry Fandom has gone on a wild ride in so many aspects, but it’s truly incredible to see the evolution of, and spread of, furry conventions over time. From their birth in California to their global presence and recognition, it’s pretty incredible to see the hard work of so many volunteers, striving to build up awesome conventions for their communities. Furry conventions have even made a name for themselves in certain cities, now being a massive annual event the non-furry locals look forward to! It’s going to be exciting to watch furry conventions go into the future and see what they bring and what new adventures await!
Seriously, though, who’s planning that first Antarctica convention? We want in!
Resources Would you like to see the table we created with all of the furry conventions that have occurred over the years and their attendance numbers? Feel free to download a copy for yourself for any studies you'd like to do or graphs you'd like to create! https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/16-Gh72g1eui6Mp3NEVd-3NtXO4X1fg6lEKSVNMKkNPs/edit?usp=sharing
Special thanks to Wikifur and all the furry conventions that provided us the data needed to create this data sheet.