WikiFur:This week's featured article/Week 45, 2005
Kitsune is, literally, Japanese for fox. However, in English usage, kitsune usually refers to the magical fox-spirit, which a fox can become. There is also a character named Kitsune in the comic Usagi Yojimbo.
In Japanese mythology, a fox who lives long enough and gains so much knowledge reaches an enlightened state, the Eastern sense of the 'fox spirit'. These supernatural beings serve as the cultural trickster, akin to Loki, Coyote, Eris, and many others; their stories both guide humankind along a proper moral path and explain the mechanics of the physical world.
Some kitsune were said to serve Inari (jovial, rotund god of rice) and guard his shrines, while others were wild and may have been either benevolent or malicious, depending on the particular story they played a role in. Some reward the honest, pious, hardworking or poor. Others manipulate powerful leaders to evil, and still others are given to arson, murder, and rape. Above all they seem to take pleasure in teaching humility, delivering hubris to the proud, greedy and powerful.
Kitsune are rated in power by the number of tails they have. Very young kitsune have one tail; the most powerful mortal kitsune (kyubi) have nine tails.
A fair proportion of furries have chosen kitsune as their personas; in some roleplaying spheres, kitsune match or outnumber normal foxes. Kitsune are popular for being aged, enlightened, yet energetic and adventurous (and for being foxlike, but more unique and exotic than foxes). They're also attractive for their gender/shapeshifting powers.