Depiction of a chupacabra
|Other name(s)||Chupacabras, El Chupacabra|
|Region||Caribbean (chiefly Puerto Rico)
Central and South America
North America (chiefly Mexico and southern United States)
The chupacabra or chupacabras (Spanish pronunciation: [tʃupaˈkaβɾas], literally "goat-sucker"; from "chupar", "to suck", and "cabra", "goat") is a legendary creature in the folklore of parts of the Americas, with its first purported 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 as far north as Maine, and as far south as Chile, and even being spotted outside the Americas in countries like Russia and the Philippines, but many of the reports have been disregarded as uncorroborated or lacking evidence. Sightings in northern Mexico and the southern United States have been verified as canids afflicted by mange. According to biologists and wildlife management officials, the chupacabra is an urban legend.
Chupacabras can be literally translated as "goat-sucker", from chupar ("to suck") and cabra ("goat"). It is known as both chupacabras and chupacabra throughout the Americas, with the former being the original word, and the latter a regularization of it. The name in Spanish can be preceded by a singular masculine article (el chupacabras), or the plural masculine article (los chupacabras).
The first reported attacks occurred in March 1995 in Puerto Rico. In this attack, eight sheep were discovered dead, each with three puncture wounds in the chest area and completely drained of blood. A few months later, in August, an eyewitness, Madelyne Tolentino, reported seeing the creature in the Puerto Rican town of Canóvanas, when as many as 150 farm animals and pets were reportedly killed. In 1975, similar killings in the small town of Moca were attributed to El Vampiro de Moca (The Vampire of Moca). Initially, it was suspected that the killings were committed by a Satanic cult; later more killings were reported around the island, and many farms reported loss of animal life. Each of the animals was reported to have had its body bled dry through a series of small circular incisions.
Puerto Rican comedian and entrepreneur Silverio Pérez is credited with coining the term chupacabras soon after the first incidents were reported in the press. Shortly after the first reported incidents in Puerto Rico, other animal deaths were reported in other countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Brazil, United States, and Mexico.
A five-year investigation by Benjamin Radford, documented in his 2011 book Tracking the Chupacabra, concluded that the description given by the original eyewitness in Puerto Rico, Madelyne Tolentino, was based on the creature Sil in the science-fiction horror film Species. The alien creature Sil is nearly identical to Tolentino’s chupacabra eyewitness account and she had seen the movie before her report: "It was a creature that looked like the chupacabra, with spines on its back and all... The resemblance to the chupacabra was really impressive," Tolentino reported. Radford revealed that Tolentino "believed that the creatures and events she saw in Species were happening in reality in Puerto Rico at the time," and therefore concludes that "the most important chupacabra description cannot be trusted." This, Radford believes, seriously undermines the credibility of the chupacabra as a real animal.
In addition, the reports of blood-sucking by the chupacabra were never confirmed by a necropsy, the only way to conclude that the animal was drained of blood. An analysis by a veterinarian of 300 reported victims of the chupacabra found that they had not been bled dry.
Radford divided the chupacabra reports into two categories:
- the reports from Puerto Rico and Latin America where animals were attacked and it is supposed their blood was extracted
- the reports in the United States of mammals, mostly dogs and coyotes with mange, that people call "chupacabra" due to their unusual appearance
In late October 2010, University of Michigan biologist Barry O'Connor concluded that all the chupacabra reports in the United States were simply coyotes infected with the parasite Sarcoptes scabiei, whose symptoms would explain most of the features of the chupacabra: they would be left with little fur, thickened skin, and rank odour. O'Connor theorized that the attacks on goats occurred "because these animals are greatly weakened, they're going to have a hard time hunting. So they may be forced into attacking livestock because it's easier than running down a rabbit or a deer." 
Although several witnesses came to the conclusion that the attacks could not be the work of dogs or coyotes because they had not eaten the victim, this conclusion is incorrect. Both dogs and coyotes can kill and not consume the prey, either because they are inexperienced, or due to injury or difficulty in killing the prey. The prey can survive the attack and die afterwards from internal bleeding or circulatory shock. The presence of two holes in the neck, corresponding with the canine teeth, are to be expected since this is the only way that most land carnivores have to catch their prey.
During the first year, more than 200 reports were made in Puerto Rico.
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 the 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 April 2006, MosNews reported that the chupacabra was spotted in Russia for the first time. Reports from Central Russia beginning in March 2005 tell of a beast that kills animals and sucks out their blood. 32 turkeys were killed and drained overnight. Reports later came from neighboring villages when 30 sheep were killed and their blood was drained. Finally, eyewitnesses were able to describe the chupacabra. In May 2006, experts were determined to track the animal down. According to Russian paranormal researcher Vadim Chernobrov, the territory allegedly frequented by chupacabras lies in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine and neighboring regions of Russia, but also in parts of Belarus and Poland. Recently the reports appeared of chupacabra-like attacks in the Moscow region of Russia with dozens of birds and animals found bloodless, with strange incisions. At least twice the mysterious kangaroo-like creature ("with a crocodile head") attacked humans, causing no serious damage, though. According to Chernobrov, the two extraordinary things about the chupacabras' ways are that the thing leaves a 'vanishing' line of footprints, looking as if it takes off as a bird, and also it tends occasionally to assort its victim's bodies 'aesthetically', often by colour and size, or build pyramids with killed bodies.
In mid-August 2006, Michelle O'Donnell of Turner, Maine, described an "evil looking" rodent-like animal with fangs that had been found dead alongside a road. The animal was apparently struck by a car, and was unidentifiable. Photographs were taken and witness reports seem to be in relative agreement that the creature was canine in appearance, but in widely published photos seemed unlike any dog or wolf in the area. Photos from other angles seem to show a chow or akita mixed-breed dog. It was reported that "the carcass was picked clean by vultures before experts could examine it". For years, residents of Maine have reported a mysterious creature and a string of dog maulings.
In May 2007, a series of reports on national Colombia news reported more than 300 dead sheep in the region of Boyaca, and the capture of a possible specimen to be analyzed by zoologists at the National University of Colombia.
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 chupacabra legend. State Mammologist John Young estimated that the animal in Canion's pictures was a gray fox suffering from an extreme case of mange. In November 2007, biology researchers at Texas State University–San Marcos determined from DNA samples that the suspicious animal was a coyote. The coyote, however, had grayish-blue, mostly hairless skin and large fanged teeth, attributes which caused it to appear different from a normal coyote. Additional skin samples were taken to attempt to determine the cause of the hair loss.
On January 11, 2008, a sighting was reported at the province of Capiz in the Philippines. Some of the residents from the barangay believed that it was the chupacabra that killed eight chickens. The owner of the chickens saw a dog-like animal attacking his chickens.
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 chupacabra. 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 September 26, 2009, 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 December 18, 2010, in Nelson County, Kentucky, Mark Cothren shot and killed an animal that he could not recognize and feared. Many pictures of the Chupacabra were taken and the story was well documented by various news organizations. Cothren described the creature as having large ears, whiskers, a long tail, and about the size of a house cat. Cothren says he spoke with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and handed over the preserved animal for further analysis.
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 Crabtree saw. Experts confirmed that the animal was definitely a coyote with mange.
On September 17, 2013, the Fox 2 News affiliate in Saint Louis, Missouri, posted on its website a report of two sightings. In the first, a woman spotted a "small grey dog-like animal" near the front gate of the Old Lake Hill Speedway in Saint Louis. A week previously, a hunter claimed to have killed a chupacabra while "coon hunting". The Mississippi Department of Wildlife said that it was a dog with mange.
In October 2013, WOWT News in Omaha reported that two Nebraska Department of Roads employees claimed to have spotted a chupacabra just outside Blair, Nebraska. The individuals took photos of the animal that they described as a “four-legged Dracula and a scrawny, scraggly thing.” The animal had no hair and looked skinny and weak. Later, the Director of Animal Health at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, identified the animal as a coyote.
A Texan couple who reside on a ranch in Victoria County, Texas informed the media that they had shot and killed a chupacabra on their property during the evening of February 23, 2014. A wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife organization also spoke with the media and stated: "I've seen squirrels, raccoons and coyotes in this area with the same features. They're [chupacabra] a mythical creature that most people see, but what it really is sarcoptic mange which is caused by a mite that bites the animal and it can be on any mammal - dogs, cats, coyotes foxes, and humans can get another version of it as well."
On April 3, 2014, a Texan couple claimed to have captured a chupacabra in Ratcliff, Texas on March 29, 2014 Livescience's Benjamin Radford suggested the animal is a raccoon suffering from sarcoptic mange.
The most common description of the chupacabra is that of a reptile-like creature, said to have leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines or quills running down its back. It is said to be approximately 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 m) high, and stands and hops in a fashion similar to that of a kangaroo.
Another less common description of the chupacabra is of a strange breed of wild dog. This form is mostly hairless and has a pronounced spinal ridge, unusually pronounced eye sockets, fangs, and claws. 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.
A popular legend in New Orleans concerns a popular lovers' lane called Grunch Road, which was said to be inhabited by "grunches", creatures similar in appearance to the Chupacabra.
The Peuchen of Chile also share similarities in their supposed habits, but instead of being dog-like they are described as winged snakes. This legend may have originated from the vampire bat, an animal endemic to the region.
In the Philippines, another legendary creature called the Sigbin shares many of the same descriptions as the Chupacabra. The recent discovery of the cat-fox in Southeast Asia suggests that it could also have been simply sightings of this once unknown animal.
In popular culture
The popularity of the chupacabra has resulted in its being featured in many 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 chupacabra has appeared in various science fiction and monster movies, including Chupacabra: Dark Seas, starring John Rhys-Davies, and Guns of El Chupacabra, starring Scott Shaw. In 2014, the found-footage horror film Indigenous, involving friends vacation in Panama who find themselves being hunted by a pack of Chupacabra, was released.
- CNN's Ed Lavandera has described the chupacabra as the "Bigfoot of Latino culture" and has stated that "El Chupacabra also symbolizes the fear of something that doesn't exist". Following the incident in Cuero, Texas, the popularity of the chupacabra myth was receiving global attention. Phylis Canion, who was responsible for capturing the alleged specimen, claimed that T-shirts highlighting the event were shipped to locations such as Italy, Guam, and Iraq. The publicity that Cuero received following this event has led to some suggesting changing the town's mascot. In July 2008, History's Monster Quest series featured the Texas carcasses, which were determined to be dogs and coyotes.
- The Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals has a song on the 1997 album Radiator called "Chupacabras".
- In a special issue of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four released on December 28, 2007, a group of chupacabras are featured as antagonists.
- In episode 45 of the second season of Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter, boy genius, creates 'La Chupacabra' by mistake, a creature who devours everything, and makes its way to South America. Dexter and Dee Dee go there to find and stop it.
- The myth of the chupacabra is mocked in the 2012 episode "Jewpacabra" of the cartoon series South Park in which antisemitic main character Eric Cartman claims to have seen a Jewish Chupacabra that kills children on Easter.
- A chupacabra is featured in the The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy season 4 episode "Aren't You Chupacabra to See Me?"
- A hunt for the chupacraba is at the center of the plot of the "Isla de las Chupacabras" episode of Adult Swim's Sealab 2021.
- Chupacabras are dismissed by Dr. Venture as mythical in The Venture Brothers episode "Dia de Los Dangerous!" (season 1, episode 1), before a number of them appear in Brock Samson's car.
- In the film Planes, the Mexican racing plane is named El Chupacabra. He more resembles a wrestler however.[relevant? ]
- In season 4, episode 11 "El Mundo Gira" (aired in 1997) of the television show The X-Files, El Chupacabra is featured.
- The TV show Robot Chicken season 8, episode 18 features a rap performed by a Chupacabra, in which it affirms and celebrates its predilection to suck the blood of goats.
- The TV show Lost Tapes on Animal Planet featured an episode about the creature in the first season.
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