The tail plays an important role in furry culture, since its absence distinguishes humans from most other animals. It is thus an easy symbol of furryness, and many furs will wear fake tails for this reason.
There exists a broad variety of tails in nature, adapted to various tasks:
- balancing: for animals which are agile, such as cats, long tails can be moved to control their balance.
- swimming: the tail is in a perfect position to provide thrust, and a lot of swimming species have flat tails to take advantage of this. An exception is theotter, whose tail is more like a rudder, but its power still makes it effective for swimming.
- gliding: birds have flat tails to give them more area with which to glide.
- air steering: a tail can also allow flying animals to steer whilst in the air. This is why birds which hunt in forests often have long tails. Birds also open their tail-fans to brake. Flying squirrels also use their flat tails to steer in a glide.
- tree-climbing: some primates have prehensile tails, as do chameleons, which lets them hang onto branches with more than just their arms and legs. Some birds, such as woodpeckers, have stiffened tailfeathers which act as a brace while they are perched on the side of a tree.
- signaling: the tails of rabbits and deer are short and stubby, and can be erected to show a white underside when danger is detected, to warn others. Therattlesnake has a very unusual ability to produce an audible warning with its tail.
- weapons: some tails can inflict damage on other animals. While most animals today lack this ability, it seems to have been present in animals of the past, especially the dinosaurs, who had tails with spikes and club-like ends. The scorpion is probably the best known animal with a tail weapon, However it is a known fact that alligators, crocodiles and other such large reptiles have such power in their tails that there have been reports of broken limbs because of being hit by them. Dragons also often have tail weapons.
- status: some animals such as wolves use their tails to signal status within their pack, with the alphas holding their tails the highest.
- swatting pests: the tails of horses are used primarily to swat files and other annoying insects.
In stories and art, the way a tail is held or moved can be just as much an indicator of emotion as eyes, bodily posture, or mouth position. Tails are often used to make weak warm hugs, and curling tails together (if possible) is a sure sign of intimacy between two characters. In adult-oriented settings, keeping one's tail lifted is often used to indicate accessibility and may be expected of someone in a submissive role (ironically nearly the opposite of certain real animals where the dominant one holds their tail the highest).
Care is often given to tails; as well as keeping them looking nice, they are also extensions of the spine, which means damage to them is especially painful.
Many furs have tails which they have purchased or made themselves. It is quite common to see people walking around conventions wearing the appropriate tail for their species. Most such tails are simply inanimate accessories, but a few fans have experimented with designing mechanical or animatronic tails that move realistically, either for standalone wear or as part of fursuits.