In this article:
- The legend of the Chupacabra arose in Puerto Rico in 1995 after it had been reported that a strange creature had been killing off herds of livestock. The creature was described as being reptilian or even otherworldly.
- As the myth spread to the north, people in the United States and Mexico began to refer to a Chupacabra that looked more like a dog than a reptile.
- After decades of this legend spreading around the world, it seems that historians and scientists have some pretty solid scientific explanations for both versions of this story. Has the mystery of the Chupacabra been solved?
Aside from Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, there are few cryptids out there as famous as the Chupacabra. This legendary creature, which has been popularized throughout Latin America and the southwestern United States, is best known for wreaking havoc on livestock.
Descriptions of this beast vary widely from account to account, making it hard to pin down exactly what the Chupacabra looks like and how it behaves. However, according to some scientists, recent discoveries may be able to explain a large portion of reported sightings.
Admittedly, my first encounter with the cryptid was in a regretfully named episode of South Park. After finding out about this longstanding legend, I started seeing it everywhere. There are movies made about it such as Indigenous and Chupacabra: Dark Seas.
Cryptozoologists (the kinds of scientists you might see on The History Channel) have been hunting the cryptid for decades and have made plenty of documentaries about their efforts. On a recent trip to Colombia, I even visited a shop that sold Chupacabra-themed apparel.
Yes, the legend of the Chupacabra has permeated American oral tradition for decades and has seeped its way into pop culture. But, if we look back to the origins of this legend, it seems that it may have been inspired by pop culture in the first place.
What Is the Chupacabra?
Physical descriptions of the Chupacabra have varied widely from account to account. However, in the originally reported sightings of this monster, it was reptilian and believed to look sort of like your classic description of an alien. It had scaly skin, large eyes, webbed hands and feet, and a forked tongue.
The creature was given the name Chupacabra (which translates to “goat-sucker”) because it was believed to be responsible for a string of livestock killings that occurred in Puerto Rico in 1995.
Eyewitnesses claimed that they saw the strange creature sucking the blood from goats before scampering off into the wilderness.
As the legend made its way north to the United States, people began describing the Chupacabra as a dog-like creature rather than some sort of reptilian extraterrestrial. Thus, we can divide the legend roughly into two different versions: the Latin American version and the North American version.
Explanations for the Latin American Chupacabra
In 1975, in the Puerto Rican town of Moca, there were a series of livestock killings that were originally attributed to a Satanic cult that residents believed to be active in the area. Once livestock started dying again in 1995, the citizens of Moca started to wonder whether something else was responsible for the 1975 killings. Perhaps it was the Chupacabra.
In March 1995, livestock once again started dying off inexplicably in Puerto Rico. According to local reports, eight sheep were found dead that month, all of them with three puncture wounds to their chests. It looked as if something had been sucking their blood out.
Several months later, in August, as many as 150 animals were reported to have been killed in the rural town of Canovanas. When interviewed, a woman by the name of Madelyne Tolentino claimed that these killings could all be attributed to one creature: the Chupacabra.
This interview with Tolentino is usually cited as the original description of the Latin American reptilian version of the Chupacabra.
However, when we look at another event that occurred in Puerto Rico right around the same time as the reported Chupacabra killing, it sheds a different light on the trustworthiness of Tolentino’s account.
Right around the same time in 1995, the sci-fi thriller film Species debuted in Puerto Rico and enjoyed massive popularity. Tolentino’s description of the cryptid is extremely similar to the character Sil from the movie, who was portrayed by Natasha Henstridge, particularly when it came to the spiky ridges on the creature’s back.
It turns out that Madelyne Tolentino had, in fact, recently seen the movie before giving her account of the Chupacabra sightings. Tolentino also claimed that she believed that events that happened in the movie Species were occurring in real life in Puerto Rico.
For this reason, her eyewitness account was deemed entirely untrustworthy. But, the public didn’t care. Stories of an alien-like creature continued to spread all throughout Latin America.
Explanations for the North American Chupacabra
As the legend made its way to parts of Mexico and the United States, the monster took on a different appearance. Sightings from these parts of the world claimed that the Chupacabra looked more like a dog (or some other kind of four-legged mammal) than some sort of otherwordly lizard.
These dog-like beasts are often described as being gray in color, having scaly skin, vicious teeth, and a ridge along their backs.
And, while this description of the Chupacabra makes it sound pretty fearsome, scientists may have a fairly obvious explanation for sightings of the cryptid. Many believe that the creatures reported were coyotes that were suffering from mange, a parasitic disease caused by mites.
Mange, which is known as “scabies” in humans, is a painful and potentially fatal skin disease that causes the hair to fall out and the skin to shrivel. The mites also burrow under the skin and lay eggs and secrete waste, causing the skin to take on a scaly texture.
To an observer who’s unfamiliar with what a coyote with mange looks like, it’s easy to see how someone could mistake one for a Chupacabra-like creature.
Additionally, it would make sense that an outbreak of mange in a community of coyotes would lead to a string of livestock killings. A healthy coyote usually eats small mammals, like rabbits and mice. But due to the fact that mange is known to cause severe exhaustion in coyotes, they might turn to larger, slower prey, such as livestock, to satisfy their appetites.
Is the Chupacabra Real?
When it comes to both versions of the legend of the Chupacabra, there seem to be some pretty solid scientific explanations for these reported sightings. In the original, Latin American version of the myth, it would seem that the people of Puerto Rico mistook the fictional story of the film Species for a real-life alien conspiracy.
In terms of the North American version of the myth, the idea that people are mistaking coyotes afflicted with mange for mythical “goat-sucking” creatures seems very plausible.
Up until now, there has never been any credible evidence produced to support the existence of the Chupacabra. However, there’s always the chance that there’s an otherworldly, goat-sucking creature out there terrorizing herds of livestock. Who knows? But, if you ever believe that you’ve had an encounter with the Chupacabra, you might want to consider that you actually just saw a pretty sick coyote.