Be aware of the Chupacabras

Chupacabra attacking a goat | Courtesy by Flicker

Although the earliest reported sightings of the chupacabra were in the 1990s, the legendary creature has become deeply seated in the public consciousness. Those who believe that the chupacabra exists insist on its reality in spite of there being no photographical or scientific evidence of the species.1 Nonetheless, “flesh and blood chupacabras have supposedly been found as recently as June of 2017, making the monsters eminently more accessible for study than, say, the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot.”2 The term chupacabra literally means goat sucker, referring to reports of this creature killing goats and drinking their blood. Therefore, the chupacabra has a symbolic link to the vampire. As interesting as the chupacabra might be, the sociological and psychological effects of these reports are equally fascinating. Since 1995, more than two hundred reports of chupacabra have surfaced, all from North America and most from Puerto Rico.3 These reports have led to negative effects in the affected communities, including widespread panic and unnecessary killing of wildlife.

Chupacabras | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

The chupacabra has been spotted mainly in the United States and Mexico, and especially in Puerto Rico where the legend was originally born. As journalist David Moye points out, several residents of a small town in Texas have not just reported seeing the chupacabra, but also claim to have preserved chupacabra corpses.4 The scientific explanation most typically given for the chupacabra is not that it does not exist at all, but rather that it is simply a wild animal mistaken for the mythical creature. The most common explanation is that the chupacabra is a coyote with mange, which often appears “quite debilitated,” and which may prey on easy targets like livestock.5 Moye also states that some believe the chupacabra to be a type of raccoon. DNA analysis on a suspected corpse has revealed that in at least one case, the suspected chupacabra was nothing more than a “hybrid of a coyote on the maternal side and a Mexican wolf on the paternal side.”6 Nevertheless, not all sightings of the chupacabra are canine in appearance. Almost all the earliest sightings until 2000 were decidedly un-canine and described as “a bipedal creature that was three feet tall and covered in short gray hair, with spikes out of its back.”7

Chupacabra drawing | Courtesy of Flicker

Although the chupacabra stories started to surface in the 1990s in Puerto Rico, Benjamin Radford, author of a book on the chupacabra, points out that there were earlier sightings throughout the twentieth century.8 The stories and the folklore surrounding the chupacabra have dramatically changed over the years, perhaps accounting in part for the shift in its appearance from an odd bipedal creature with spikes to one more canine in appearance and behavior.9 Bale describes the extent of the original reports of the chupacabra, noting that in 1994, residents of Canóvanas, Puerto Rico, had reported dozens of wildlife fatalities not limited to goats. Following the Puerto Rican reports, over two-thousand more farm animals were reported dead via a “grotesque creature about three feet tall, with membraned wings, a hunched back, large eyes, covered with either scales or quills.”10 Some reports also offer the chupacabra the additional sinister feature of “glowing red eyes.”11 Given its fearsome appearance and the trail of destruction left in its wake, it was no wonder that the affected communities started to panic. Whenever and wherever chupacabras had been spotted, residents of the community would go so far as to completely board up their residences, take up arms, and hire guards to protect their loved ones.12 In fact, some ranchers even started to sell off their herds to minimize their financial losses in anticipation of both drought and further chupacabra attacks. In California, a wave of chupacabra sightings led livestock owners and ranchers to declare “open season” on protected wildlife like mountain lions, leading to mandatory police controls of affected areas.13

Chupacabra | Courtesy of Flicker

The panic surrounding chupacabras became so widespread and potentially devastating to local communities that the governments of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and even the United States were forced to step in. As Bale points out, international press conferences ensued, including reports from “prominent biologists” who offered their theories about what the chupacabra could have been, plus another autopsy of a corpse conducted in Miami, which yielded results of the creature to be either a “puma or a dog.”14 Likewise, in 2007, biologists in Texas analyzed the DNA of a chupacabra and found it to be nothing more than a coyote.11 The biologists’ conclusions did little to assuage fears, as the analyses seemed inconclusive, lacking concrete and definitive evidence about what the creature might have really been and why so many continued to see something bipedal and vampiric. Even when the stories started to change, morphing the chupacabra into a canine creature, ranchers and farmers continued to cling to their claims and spread rumors.

The “confusion and contradiction” surrounding chupacabras comes from both sides of the debate, with reported sightings being too diverse and lacking in cohesive description to be seriously credible, and yet with scientific explanations also lacking substance.16 Given the diversity of reports, both in terms of their geographic locations, the description of the creature itself, and its effect on wildlife, it has been as difficult to debunk the existence of the chupacabra as to prove its existence. Unlike Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, there have actually been specimens that have been examined and tested, as well as thousands of animal victims of the chupacabra. Therefore, the legend of the chupacabra continues to proliferate and sink quickly into popular culture. Panic is less likely to be the reaction to a chupacabra reporting now, being replaced by a sense of pride in local customs and a mistrust of the government. In essence, the chupacabra plays perfectly to the tune of global conspiracy theorists.

The chupacabra is now known globally, even though its terrain remains geographically restricted, just as with the Loch Ness monster or any similar creature like the yeti. Mainstream news networks, from NBC and CNN to Univision and BBC, have all picked up on chupacabra stories, albeit reporting those stories in a clearly skeptical way.17 The television shows X Files and Scooby Doo both dedicated episodes to chupacabras, who also appeared on countless t-shirts and of course, Halloween costumes.18 A good number of these popular culture references are, of course, tongue-in-cheek, which has revealed an ancillary phenomenon: what Bale calls “a popular commentary on modernity,” similar to the Frankenstein legend.19

There is another important sociological and political effect from the chupacabras: the divide between the guardians of secularism and modernity versus those who believe in the importance of tradition and religion. Whereas it is easy for progressive, secular societies to dismiss the chupacabras out of hand, those who honor the legend, even for humorous purposes, acknowledge that folklore and storytelling play a significant role in human society. Folklore can link people together, offering the means by which to escape the harsher realities of war and climate change. There is also the fact that the people who have reported chupacabra sightings genuinely believe in the creature, and that it threatens their livestock and ways of life. When people from urban areas or communities in far away places start to wear a chupacabra t-shirt, it seems insulting to those who actually do believe that it exists and is a serious public safety concern. In fact, the people of Canóvanas, Puerto Rico, and small rural ranching communities in Mexico felt denigrated and “manipulated” by the mainstream media who painted them as “ignorant hicks,” and Bale also claims that the legend represents the means by which urban legends are used to expose or mirror angst in the public consciousness.20 Thus, chupacabras are at least an opportunity to study the symbolism and function of cryptozoology, as well as a means of studying the ways people manufacture supernatural stories for political or sociological purposes.

El Chupacabra | Courtesy of Fubar and Grill

Interestingly, the chupacabra is never depicted as a creature that harms humans; it only targets livestock. This differentiates the chupacabras from vampires. Yet given that the chupacabra does inflict harm on human communities, it is a sinister symbol of terrorism and oppression. The stories occasionally run dry for several years, only to resurface with a vengeance when a farmer loses hundreds of goats or cattle at once and blames chupacabras. As Robert Jordan points out, too, the elusive platypus was once believed to be a fake creature relegated to cryptozoology as late as the eighteenth century.21 Therefore, the chupacabra may indeed exist. The question would then be: what does the chupacabra actually look like, if half the reports describe one thing and the other half something totally different?

Whether or not the chupacabra exists, the legends and stories are compelling in their own right. The stories are unique to North America, just as the Loch Ness monster is unique to Scotland. Furthermore, the descriptions of the chupacabra have changed significantly, showing how legends and stories can morph while still preserving their core essence and meaning. Finally, the chupacabra represents at once the reactions of rural people who are frequently painted as being backwards, as well as the condescending reactions of urban people who believe themselves to be superior, nonplussed by superstition or legend.

  1. Benjamin Radford, Tracking the chupacabra: the vampire beast in fact, fiction, and folklore (UNM Press, 2011), 133.
  2. Robert Michael Jordan, “El Chupacabra: Icon of Resistance to US Imperialism,” (Master’s Thesis, University of Texas at Dallas, 2008), 4.
  3. Robert Michael Jordan, “El Chupacabra: Icon of Resistance to US Imperialism,” (Master’s Thesis, University of Texas at Dallas, 2008), 7.
  4. Moye David, “Living Chupacabra Captured By Texas Couple?” Huffington Post: Weird News, (April, 2014).
  5. Robert Michael Jordan, “El Chupacabra: Icon of Resistance to US Imperialism,” (Master’s Thesis, University of Texas at Dallas, 2008), 5.
  6. Moye David, “Living Chupacabra Captured By Texas Couple?” Huffington Post: Weird News, (April, 2014).
  7. Robert Michael Jordan, “El Chupacabra: Icon of Resistance to US Imperialism,” (Master’s Thesis, University of Texas at Dallas, 2008), 4.
  8. Benjamin Radford, Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011), 43-44.
  9. Jeffrey M. Bale, “Political paranoia v. political realism: on distinguishing between bogus conspiracy theories and genuine conspiratorial politics,” Patterns of Prejudice (Taylor & Francis Online), Volume 41, Issue 1 (February 1, 2007): 51.
  10. Jeffrey M. Bale, “Political paranoia v. political realism: on distinguishing between bogus conspiracy theories and genuine conspiratorial politics,” Patterns of Prejudice (Taylor & Francis Online), Volume 41, Issue 1 (February 1, 2007): 48.
  11. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Chupacabra.”
  12. Jeffrey M. Bale, “Political paranoia v. political realism: on distinguishing between bogus conspiracy theories and genuine conspiratorial politics,” Patterns of Prejudice (Taylor & Francis Online), Volume 41, Issue 1 (February 1, 2007): 54.
  13.  Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Chupacabra.”
  14. Jeffrey M. Bale, “Political paranoia v. political realism: on distinguishing between bogus conspiracy theories and genuine conspiratorial politics,” Patterns of Prejudice (Taylor & Francis Online), Volume 41 Issue 1 (February 1, 2007): 57-58; J. Gabbatiss, “The truth about a strange blood-sucking monster,” BBC Earth (10 Nov, 2016).
  15. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Chupacabra.”
  16. Benjamin Radford, Tracking the Chupacabras (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011), 69.
  17. J. Gabbatiss, “The truth about a strange blood-sucking monster,” BBC Earth, (10 Nov, 2016).
  18. Jeffrey M. Bale, “Political paranoia v. political realism: on distinguishing between bogus conspiracy theories and genuine conspiratorial politics,” Patterns of Prejudice (Taylor & Francis Online), Volume 41, Issue 1 (February 1, 2007): 57.
  19. Jeffrey M. Bale, “Political paranoia v. political realism: on distinguishing between bogus conspiracy theories and genuine conspiratorial politics,” Patterns of Prejudice (Taylor & Francis Online), Volume 41, Issue 1 (February 1, 2007): 60.
  20. Jeffrey M. Bale, “Political paranoia v. political realism: on distinguishing between bogus conspiracy theories and genuine conspiratorial politics,” Patterns of Prejudice (Taylor & Francis Online), Volume 41, Issue 1 (February 1, 2007): 60, 292.
  21. Robert Michael Jordan, “El Chupacabra: Icon of Resistance to US Imperialism,” (Master’s Thesis, University of Texas at Dallas, 2008), 3.

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This Post Has 54 Comments

  1. Danielle Slaughter

    Wow! I never knew just how many sociological implications a cryptid like the Chupacabra could have on a community, particularly one made up of those who wholeheartedly believe in it and want it gone. I definitely believe that the Chupacabra could exist, but only insofar as it might simply be an undiscovered species of canine that has evolved to feed on blood. We have vampire bats, mosquitoes, vampire finches, and even the Madrilennial butterfly. Certainly, it could be possible.

  2. I’ve always heard the stories of the Chupacabra, always wondering if it was just a myth or if what people said about those creature were true. It’s interesting to find out that it isn’t just a scary story family members would tell, and that it doesn’t harm people at all, but that it actually had that kind of affect on communities and what they believed to be the cause of the death of their live stock. Maybe a creature as such does exists, or maybe those are just getting confused on what they believe to be some monster instead of just a rabid animal. It’s crazy to know that there is so many unanswered questions about the Chupacabra as the myth of it has been told for so long.

  3. Clarissa Gonzalez

    My grandmother used to tell me stories about the chupacabras that would be in the woods whenever we went to Mexico to scare me into staying inside once it got dark. The affect it has on a community is so understandable because people that were twice my age or more even believed the things that my grandmother would say about the creature. She was different when using the same name though, never specifying that it would just focus on livestock. I feel like she’d think it wouldn’t scare me as much.

  4. the chupacabras has always been a word of mouth story, many time used to scare away little children. It’s unbelievable that there was an event as recent as 2017. It’s sad that the chupacabra still remains a mystery to us and i think it would be amazing if it ended up to be a real creature and not just a myth.

  5. I was surprised to know that chupacabras have seen on as recently as June 2017. I have heard of the creature but didn’t know it is such seriously considered to exist because I thought that it’s a kind of a myth. Anyway it is totally weird that we have never captured them for such a long time even though we have seen the appearance many times.

  6. Such a spooky article. I remember hearing of this legend from my grandmother and it would really make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I find it so weird that there are so many variants of the description of the chupacabra. On one hand it’s a mutant coyote and on the other it seems to be an alien of the sorts. Either way, I would never want to come face to face with one. Great read.

  7. This was a very interesting article on the legend of the Chupacabra. I did not know that in the 1990’s the Chupacabra was described as a bipedal animal as opposed to the more canine-like appearance of today. The Chupacabra has not been proven to be real despite the many reports of seeing the Chupacabra. Overall, this was a great article that thoroughly described the legend of the Chupacabra.

  8. Jabnel Ibarra

    The chupacabra has always been nothing more than a story I was told growing up to scare me from going outside too late at night. While terrifying at the time, today I’ve only ever seen the chupacabra as a fun myth to think about when telling scary stories. I never knew that the existence of the chupacbra was ever even seriously debated, much less prompting enough for the U.S. government to step in to look into its existence.

  9. Throughout my childhood years I grew up listening to the Chupacabra stories. In reading this article I learned many other characteristics of the Chupacabra. In the stories that were told it was mentioned how livestock was found dead with the blood sucked out. As a child I only knew of the Chupacabra through the stories and was not aware of the impacts of the Chupacabra in the United States and other Countries.

  10. It is unfortunate that the chupacabra remains to be a mystery in our world. It would be amazing to find out if the chupacabra is a true creature. It is strange to know that there is a creature out in the wild that sucks goat blood, and that people can’t find the true identity of this creature. If biologists never find true identity of the chupacabra, I would probably believe the creature is a myth. Sometimes people enjoy sharing stories that involves mystery and fear; therefore, it might be fake.

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