Once upon a time, there was a Big Bad Wolf. He ate grandma, remember? Terrorized poor old Red right out of her hood?
Then he got all smexied up, became either a were or a shapeshifter (because they’re different, you know—it’s that whole moon thing), and turned into a romantic hero. Big alpha males who change into a beast to defeat the bad guys and a cuddly puppy when confronted with the right woman. What’s not to love?
The first non-horror shifter I remember reading was Laurell K. Hamilton’s Richard in the Anita Blake series. Richard Zeeman was handsome, tortured, and total hotness on two legs or four…well, until he got whiny and annoying. But he had a good run of books before that happened.
Since then, werewolves have remained at the head of the were-critter/shapeshifter pack as the alphas of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, but they’ve gradually had to learn to share the spotlight with some other shifters. Some are equally sexy. (I mean, who doesn’t love a big old were-tiger? Was I the only one shouting for Sookie to stick with Quinn? I think not.) Others are, well, downright bizarre.