Therian: Dispelling the Earthen Animal Myth


For many individuals in the nonhuman community today, terminology is learned by word-of-mouth from individuals that have resided in the community for longer, and then pass on that knowledge to further newcomers. Such is the way for many communities, but as a method of information transfer, it can contribute to the loss and future lack of information.

Such is the case of our beloved word “Therian”. Today, I am going to be talking about the evolution of the word from its earliest predecessor, “Phenotype”, to its current meaning of “identifying as an earthen animal”, and how it obtained this incredibly narrow and exclusitory meaning. My goal and hope is to bring solace and open a new avenue to those who had previously identified with the term, but were told or had assumed that they do not fit the definition.


Just as we coin new terms today in order to better convey our understanding of what it is to be nonhuman, so did those in our past. To better understand what influenced the changes of our terms, we must go back to the beginning of our recorded history in order to learn the roots of our terminology.

Some quotes may sound oddly worded or tilted in cadence—many older sources interweave therianthropy with Totem Animals, which are no longer discussed today within therian circles. Full quotes can be found within source links, but have no basis on today's topic and thus have been omitted.

Other terms such as “otherkin” are going to be mentioned in reference to how intersectionality has occurred through the years, but are not the focus of our gathering today.

Some of the sources I will be utilizing must be understood as a product of their time, as our understanding of therianthropy has evolved since the community's first gatherings. Today’s topic is not meant to be a commentary or discussion on how the understanding of therianthropy as an identity and experience has evolved.

Finally, everything that is going to be talked about today, I was not present in the community to experience first-hand. Instead, this will be an analysis of historical documents including personal websites, forums, among other community gatherings. I do not speak as a total authority on this subject matter–I am merely bringing to light what, I feel that with evidence, was maliciously made to be forgotten. Thus, I welcome anyone who was present in the community during the times I mention to correct any inconsistencies in my information. Our history is incomplete due to the nature of the internet, and I will happily accept any primary sources that alter or clarify the information I have.


Alt.Horror.Werewolves was a Usenet group in which the therian community can trace its originating roots to. While it is a name many have heard in passing, it is a product of a very early version of the internet–it’s literally as old as me! Its name refers to its original purpose–it was essentially (as we would understand it today) a subforum that was dedicated to fans of the Horror genre of media, specifically focusing on werewolves. Fans would gather at Alt.Horror.Werewolves to discuss werewolf media, but it also attracted a slightly different type of fan.

Through the first year of the group’s existence, topics would be posted asking about real life werewolves, some to the tune of claiming to be werewolves; “...anyone else who feels the blood of the beast in them”.[1] While many users wrote off such topics as roleplayers, discussions of the nature continued to trickle in numbers, until shortly after the website’s first birthday. A thread was posted by the owner of the forum himself, speaking about how his interest in werewolves stemmed from wanting to get back in touch with nature, and with his feelings of animality.[2] This topic opened a sluice gate of further threads on the subject, talking about the nature of man and the buried feelings of the “animal inside”.

A werebat by the name of Ron created a thread speaking about a dream in which he, as a werebat, was fighting a werewolf, and stated: “Sorry, werewolves of the net... It's nothing personal against your phenotype.”[3] This is one of the, if not the, earliest surviving mention of the term “Phenotype”, and the first umbrella term to be coined in order to discuss other werebeasts that were not wolves. Not long after, however, another thread proposed the term “theriomorph”, which is the term that the Alt.Horror.Werewolves FAQ would go on to use for years.[4]

Yet, the words “were”, and “were-creature”, and “lycanthrope” continued to be the most commonly used terms amongst the community. A year after theriomorph was coined, a were-W*ndigo by the name of James created a topic stating that the continued use of the word “lycanthropy” was confusing, and asked; “Anyone besides me heard of the term 'therianthropy' (sp) which is a more general term for lycanthropy?”[5] This is the oldest surviving thread on Alt.Horror.Werewolves that uses the term, and gained many supporters to the point of being adopted as the term we know today.

But, as old habits die hard, the origins of our community being rooted in werebeast terminology and aesthetic produced the popular term “wereside” as an alternative to phenotype,[6] and soon after, the coining of “polywere”, the predecessor to polytherian.[7] The term “Shifter” referred to therians of all sorts, but typically focused on those who felt dramatic mental or phantom shifts, and was a term used well into the 2000’s. The term “weremythic” was also coined at this time,[8] though never caught popularity as animals of all sorts had been present and accepted in the community since the beginning.

Yes, Alt.Horror.Werewolves was host to many different types of animals, regardless of “wolf” in the name. We know this by a surviving practice called Werecards.[9] Werecards were user-fillable surveys of information on a werecreature, and included a section to self-identify one’s theriotype. Notable examples include Chimeras, Gryphons, Dragons, Unicorns, hybrid creatures of all sorts, Tigren, Anthro animals, Giants, Phoenix, Centaur, Manticore, and even the infamous WerePontiac. Yes, the make of car.

However, Alt.Horror.Werewolves’ reign as the community hub would not last, and members were scattered to new forums and personal websites as one of the first and largest (of its time) unified trolling events destroyed the forum’s usage.[10] But all was not lost, as the members’ scatter brought the newly founded community to the internet at large, and kicked off a golden age of discussion, introspection, and awakening.

Therianthropy: The Wild Plains

Out in the wild of the internet, werecreatures took their lycanthropy-based linguistics and shared it with non-werecreature individuals who asked the question of “why ‘’were’, and why just wolves?” While students of Alt.Horror.Werewolves members would continue to use were-based linguistics for well over a decade, and in some cases into modern day such as our current word for “shifts”, many others took “Therian'' and ran into the tall grass.

A commonality between the nonhumans of the time was; “ask ten therianthropes what therianthropy is, and you’ll get eleven different answers.” Yet a general consensus shows us that those answers were all on the same page.

  • Twilight Fox, in 1998, writes: "...[A P]henotype(s) is an integral part of themselves, something which can never be seen as separate from themselves.” [11]
  • Therianthrope.Org, carrying over from Alt.Horror.Werewolves‘ FAQ which was captured on the Internet Archive in 1998, states: “...Therianthropy… is the ability to mentally transform from the normal human mode of thinking and reacting to an animal one." [12]
  • Lynx’s Temple, in 2000, writes: “Fundamentally, it means that you in some way perceive yourself as occupying the liminal space between human (anthropos) and wild animal (therion).” And, in a conversation adapted from Alt.Horror.Werewolves: “I prefer the word "animality" or "WereSide"... I myself don't like the word Phenotype, it really IS a misnomer.” [13]
  • According to Winged Wolf in 2003: “The variety of phenotypes… is very long, and even includes some animals which are thought to be mythical or legendary, such as dragons and w*ndigowak.” (sic) [14]
  • Korrok says, in 2004: “A therianthrope, or were … is a person who feels that they have some connection to an animal. They might think they are an animal "inside" - in mind or spirit - or that they are part-animal in this way.” [15]
  • The ClovenHoovedGoddess, also in 2004, writes: “Therianthropes are people who share an integral connection with a(n) animal(s) in such a way that they believe themselves to be that(those) animal(s) in either a spiritual/mental/emotional capacity.” And further states: “Nobody has the right to claim that dragons cannot be therianthropes, it is up to the individual to choose which label to identify themselves as.” [16]
  • Aurorawolfen, again in 2004, states: “There are also weres whose phenotype… is not of this earth, like dragons, and gryphons, though some say these are not weres, but Otherkin.” [17]
  • Akhila, once more in 2004, states: "Therianthropy is a constant state of being and way of experiencing/perceiving the world that leads a person to identify as an animal" [18]]
  • Masticina states in 2005: "Therianthropy is the belief that one is, in whole or in part, one or more animals in some manner other than physically." And goes on to qualify this with: "Therians are those believing to having an animal soul, sometimes also mythical animals or extinct ones." (sic) [19]
  • Quil tells us in 2006: "Therianthropy is a state of being in which the therianthrope exists, lives, thinks, has instincts, and often acts as a non-human animal. " [20]
  • Meirya, also in 2006, defines it very simply as: “Therianthropy is animality.” [21]
  • Project Shift defines it, in the years between 2008 and 2010, as: “The state of being a person who is, feels, or believes he/she is in part or whole (non-physically) one or more non-human animals on an integral, personal level.” [22]
  • True Form Within, in 2009, states: “A theriotype can be any sort of animal, living or extinct.” And goes on to qualify it with: “Over the past couple of years there has been a huge increase in theriotypes other than wolves as well as an increase in those who's phenotype are more 'astral' creatures - such as dragons, elves, phoenixes, etc.“ [23]
  • Moonsong writes, in the years between 2009 and 2011: “...[T]herian is any human that identifies with a non-human animal. They could identify with it spiritually, mentally, and sometimes physically.” [24]

So Where, and How, Did it Change?

Somewhere around 2006 is where primary sources in the form of cataloged websites begin to wane in frequency, thus this is where hard evidence begins to become scarce. We can speculate on why, and my personal theories include; the movement of communities from forum-style chat functions to increasingly-popular instant messaging formats such as Skype; the loss of internet savviness and thus the lost knowledge of submitting online information to the Internet Archive; the loss of interest in hosting personal websites, in addition to the loss of hosting services such as Geocities and Freewebs; the closing of once active but later inactive forums; as well as the roiling turmoil of constantly emerging and dying web hosts such as AOL.

In 2002, we see the earliest recorded description of what Therians are versus Otherkin. Glendarii describes Otherkin as: “...[T]herianthropes who's (sic) bond creatures are mythical beings such as dragons and elves. Otherkin are actually contherianthropes, whereby no M-shifting occurs, but they have a constant feeling of being like their bond entity.“ [25]

Granted, while I did not specifically read into Otherkin's history, my research into our term's history finds that it intersects at points with Otherkin (going back all the way to Alt.Horror.Werewolves, to be exact!) and this is a VERY early point of time to encounter this, which suggests that the “argument” of “therians experience, otherkin identify” has been ongoing much longer than previously thought. It also displays an early schism between the “mythical” and “earthen” definitions, being the earliest definition that I was able to find in which distinctly defines “mythical” creatures as strictly otherkin.

I reached out to Orion Scribner in order to hear from someone who was present in the community during that time, and they suggested reading The Field Guide to Otherkin by Lupa, as they recalled a shift in definitions around the time she was gathering information to be included in the book. Field Guide was published late in 2007, and one can speculate it was one, if not more, years in the making, putting the dates of the obtained information an estimated 2006-2007. Under the Definitions section of the book, Lupa defines Therianthropy as "...People who identify as Earth-based animals in some respect." [26] She later qualifies this statement with: "There is some debate as to whether therianthropy should be limited only to those who identify as animals native to this plane of existence." [27] She does mention that several surveyed dragons identified as therians, but this is the extent of her touching on the subject. And yet it’s the earliest specified definition that I’ve been able to find that claims therians are “earthen animals” only.

Considering the therian community has always had non-earthen animals within it, it’s hard to imagine how a community with such strong roots started to oust established members. Lupa’s Field Guide doesnt seem to be the origin of the definition, but it’s arguable that it is a cornerstone in its proliferation, due to how well it encapsulates the community as a whole and even continues into today to be recommended as an accurate overview of what it is to be nonhuman.

An even earlier source than Lupa’s Field Guide, and one that had great influence upon her writings, goes by the title of The Magic of Shapeshifting. Released in 2000 and authored by Rosalyn Greene, the book’s contents, of which describe how shapeshifting works in this world, are controversial at best and physically impossible and incredibly discouraging at worst; but it’s definitely an entertaining, if dangerous, read and gives us some insight into some of the most interesting, evolving interactions of the therian community post-Alt.Horror.Werewolves. Within her book, Greene delves into the “physics” of how shifters are tied to their species, citing needing access to the “energy” of the animal in order to assume the correct form, thus mythical or fictional animals are “impossible” forms for shifters to have. However, she does go on to qualify the argument for both earthen animals only; that one would need the “energy” of the living animal to reference from – AND for all species; wherein animals that are nearly extinct or incredibly difficult to find physically such as the tiger, which is “popular” in shifters, can still be accessed due to the energy from the “collective subconscious” and its “essential structure”. [28]

With that said, I unfortunately have no definitively sourced knowledge of how the “earthen-animal only” definition came to exist, or why the schism began–I only have speculation. Did Greene’s The Magic of Shapeshifting touch on a real schism in the therian community that was latent enough I couldnt find evidence for it, or was it fabricated for entertainment? Regardless, it was damning enough for Lupa to include into the Field Guide, a 101 source for many therians through the years.

So, Why Did it Change in the Community’s Lexicon?

Orion gave me their opinion on the matter, and as it’s wonderfully succinct, I’ll quote them: “Therianthropes have always tended to be defensive about trying to be seen as plausible, whether for spiritual or psychological reasons, and a few felt imaginary beings were too implausible.” From the sources I’ve read on the matter, I agree. The few gatekept the many, and over time it became the only definition.

There exists the concept of an Online Echo Chamber. It is a phenomenon in which individuals within a closed community learn about a topic, and only discuss amongst themselves, thus prompting all members of the echo chamber to believe they, and only they, have the correct information on the topic. If the echo chamber becomes the primary source of information on a topic, only that information will ever be known by newcomers, as well as from those that spread the information beyond the echo chamber’s walls.

Late in 2008, a burgeoning forum, one of few of its kind of the time, named Therian Wilderness, presented the earthen-animal definition to its members. An admin going by the name of Re Harakhti posted: “Therians are a type of Otherkin… Other-kin is just kin different to standard animal and men. And therianthropes are the branch that are referred to as ‘Earth-Animal-Humans’. Other Otherkin are everything considered not to be earthly animals.” [29] Other admins go on to qualify that it was the definition used on all of the personal sites that they had seen, and it would become the definition used by the forum even up to today where it can be found in the forum’s Terms & Definitions board. [30]

Many in attendance may recognize the name of the forum; it was one of the most popular forums for therians through 2015 – but it was also infamous for being somewhat hostile to anyone who wasnt an earthen-animal. Messages and threads through the years showed otherkin or non-earthen animals such as dragons joining, being told “there’s not much here for you”, and their introduction post being the last interaction they’d had on the site. Similarly, when individuals argued for non-earthen animals to be able to use Therian, they were shut down in favor of the argument of “this is how it always has been, suck it up”, even when objectively shown the forum was being exclusive or outright ignoring community history.

The unyielding nature of the users and the popularity of the forum presented the community with only one option,[33] thus locked new community members into only knowing the exclusive definition, not fostering a community that helped others find language that helped them better understand themselves.

I’m a Therian.

I am a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur. I may have been able to recognize myself in a mirror, but I could never have understood the ramifications of being an unnatural animal. I was an animal–and I still am. I experience dinosaur drives, dinosaur instincts, the urge to chirp, roar, bite, swim, hunt. How does that make me any different than a lion? Than a vulture? Than a dolphin?

The term Therian was always meant to describe animals, but that was taken from those of us who dont fit a perfect mold. I joined the community in 2017, and learned the earthen-animal definition of therian; I felt an odd sense of belonging to it, but was shoved out of it. It wasnt until last year, 2021, that I learned the history of the term. So I share it with you, in hopes that it helps at least one someone find a piece of their identity they were missing.

Sources & Further Reading

HouseofChimera’s Therian Timeline

Orion Scribner’s Otherkin Timeline




Twilight Fox[11][12]

Lynx’s Temple[13][14]

Therian Info[15]







Project Shift[22]

True Form Within[23]



Lupa. A Field Guide to Otherkin. Stafford, England: Immanion Press, 2007

Greene, Rosalyn. The Magic of Shapeshifting. York Beach, ME: S. Weiser, 2000.

Therian Wilderness[30][29][32][33]

Werelist || [Alt][31]


Witch’s Cauldron

Swiftpaw’s Tree


Shadow’s Den

Lion Templin