The chupacabra (“goat sucker”) is a legendary cryptid rumored to inhabit parts of the Americas, with the first sightings reported in Puerto Rico. The name comes from the animal’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats.
Physical descriptions of the creature vary. It is purportedly a heavy creature, the size of a small bear, with a row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail.
Eyewitness sightings have been claimed as early as 1995 in Puerto Rico, and have since been reported all over the world, but particularly in Texas and Northern Mexico. Scientists generally dismiss stories of chupacabras as legends and attribute most chupacabra sightings to coyotes or foxes afflicted by severe mange, a disease that ravages their fur and skin, causing them to appear to be something almost monstrous.
In July 2004, a rancher near San Antonio, Texas, killed a hairless dog-like creature which was attacking his livestock. This animal, initially given the name the Elmendorf Beast, was later determined by DNA assay conducted at University of California, Davis to be a coyote with demodectic or sarcoptic mange.
In October 2004, two more carcasses were found in the same area. Biologists in Texas examined samples from the two carcasses and determined they were also coyotes suffering from very severe cases of mange.
In Coleman, Texas, a farmer named Reggie Lagow caught an animal in a trap he set up after the deaths of a number of his chickens and turkeys. The animal was described as resembling a mix of hairless dog, rat, and kangaroo. Lagow provided the animal to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials for identification, but Lagow reported in a September 17, 2006, phone interview with John Adolfi, founder of the Lost World Museum, that the “critter was caught on a Tuesday and thrown out in Thursday’s trash.”
In August 2007, Phylis Canion found three animals in Cuero, Texas. She and her neighbors reported to have discovered three strange animal carcasses outside Canion’s property. She took photographs of the carcasses and preserved the head of one in her freezer before turning it over for DNA analysis. Canion reported that nearly 30 chickens on her farm had been exsanguinated over a period of years, a factor which led her to connect the carcasses with the chupacabras legend. Biology researchers later determined the animal was a coyote, but one with unusual characteristics.
On August 8, 2008, a DeWitt County deputy, Brandon Riedel, filmed an unidentifiable animal along back roads near Cuero, Texas, on his dashboard camera. The animal was about the size of a coyote but was hairless with a long snout, short front legs and long back legs. However, Reiter’s boss, Sheriff Jode Zavesky, believes it may be the same species of coyote identified by Texas State University–San Marcos researchers in November 2007. The video footage was shown on an April 2011 episode of the Syfy television series Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files where an investigative team tried to recreate the dashboard video footage using a miniature horse and a Mexican Hairless Dog (both of which were bred locally). Neither test animal matched the creature in the video. The team had also tested a DNA sample taken from an alleged carcass of one of the creatures found by a local rancher and later identified as being a hybrid wolf/coyote.
In September 2009, CNN aired a report showing closeup video footage of an unidentified dead animal. The same CNN report stated that locals have begun speculating the possibility that this might be a chupacabras. A Blanco, Texas, taxidermist reported that he received the body from a former student whose cousin had discovered the animal in his barn, where it had succumbed to poison left out for rodents. The taxidermist expressed his belief that this is a genetically mutated coyote.
On September 18, 2009, taxidermist Jerry Ayer sold the Blanco Texas Chupacabra to the Lost World Museum. The museum, as reported in the Syracuse Post Standard on 9/26/09, is placing the creature on display as it works with an unnamed university to have the remains tested.
In July 2010, there were reports of chupacabras being shot dead by animal control officers in Hood County, Texas. A second creature was also reportedly spotted and killed several miles away. However, an officer of Hood County animal control said Texas A&M University scientists conducted tests and identified the corpse as a “coyote-dog hybrid” with signs of mange and internal parasites. The second reported chupacabra, shot July 9 about 8 miles south of Cresson, was eaten by vultures before it could be taken for testing.
On July 4, 2011, Jack (Jeff) Crabtree, of Lake Jackson, Texas, reported seeing a chupacabra in his back yard. At first, Crabtree stood firm on his original theory of the chupacabra, but after the local newspaper and several other media reporters wrote his story on July 11, he quickly backed down, agreeing with wildlife experts that it was most likely a coyote with mange. “It was a spoof or a practical joke,” Crabtree said. “…I really didn’t believe it.” His story appeared on CNN, as well as MSNBC. On July 15, 2011, local authorities caught what they believed Crabtree saw and confirmed that the animal was a coyote with mange.
The most common description of the chupacabra is that of a reptile-like creature, appearing to have leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines or quills running down its back. This form is approximately 3 to 4 feet high, and stands and hops in a fashion similar to that of a kangaroo. In at least one sighting, the creature was reported to hop 20 feet. This variety is said to have a dog or panther-like nose and face, a forked tongue, and large fangs. It is said to hiss and screech when alarmed, as well as to leave behind a sulfuric stench. When it screeches, some reports assert that its eyes glow an unusual red which gives the witnesses nausea.
Another description of chupacabras, although not as common, describes a strange breed of wild dog. This form is mostly hairless and has a pronounced spinal ridge, unusually pronounced eye sockets, fangs, and claws. It is claimed that this breed might be an example of a dog-like reptile. Unlike conventional predators, the chupacabra is said to drain all of the animal’s blood (and sometimes organs) usually through three holes in the shape of an upside-down triangle or through one or two holes.
The popularity of the chupacabras has resulted in its being featured in several types of media. At least one published mystery novel uses aspects of the myth as the centerpoint of the plot. Other kinds of books include those that provide a scientific explanation for the phenomena. The chupacabras has been featured in films such as Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico and in independent film productions including Chupacabra: Dark Seas, starring John Rhys-Davies; and Guns of El Chupacabra, starring Scott Shaw.