The Chupacabras may be the most famous of all Latin American legends. And that’s saying a lot for a culture rich in folklore and myths. Even non-Hispanics have heard of this fierce creature, which is blamed for the death of livestock and pets throughout the continent.
The word “chupacabras” comes from its supposed favored victim: it means goat-sucker (chupa: suck and cabra: goat). In some places, it’s known as a chupacabra (no “s”). Despite the name, they are said to kill other animals, as well: cats, dogs, ducks, hogs, and other domesticated animals.
History of the Chupacabras Legend
Believe it or not, the chupacabras legend is a recent one. When we think of myths and legends, we usually think of those that have been seen or spoken of by our great-great-grandparents. Not this legend.
The first reported attack of the chupacabras was actually in March 1995 in Puerto Rico. Eight sheep were drained completely of their blood, which was sucked out through three wounds on their chest.
Not much later, a woman named Madelyne Tolentino, also in Puerto Rico, claimed to have seen what is now known as the chupacabras, near a village that experienced a massacre of some 150 domesticated animals.
Deaths of animals at the hands (or teeth) of the chupacabras have since been reported in most Spanish speaking countries in Latin America. Given its origin, it’s best known for being a Puerto Rican legend, but it’s also considered a part of Mexican folklore.
Reports of the chupacabras came as early as 1996, just a year after it was first reported in Puerto Rico. Since then, the creature of Mexican legends has returned a number of times, always attacking large groups of livestock.
What Does the Chupacabras Look Like?
Researcher Benjamin Radford, who spent two years investigating the chupacabras legend, has noted that there are three different physical descriptions that are associated with the creature.
The first and perhaps the best-known is the original one, given by Tolentino, the first woman to “see” a chupacabras. It looks a bit like an alien, and may actually have been inspired by a sci-fi movie that Tolentino saw. It’s tall, stands on two feet, and has spikes down its back.
The second is more tied to recent sightings of the creature, as well as supposed chupacabras that have been captured: a coyote or dog-like animal.
And then, the catch-all third, for people who have seen “something” and feel that it was a chupcabras. Pretty versatile for one mythical creature.
Recent Sightings of the Chupacabras
Of course, Latins have had reason to believe in the chupacabras legend for years, but one of the most famous recent sightings was in 2014, when a Texas couple found a hairless animal that they didn’t recognize. Noting its claws, its “unusual” (ugly) appearance, and its shrieking sound, they claimed it was a chupacabras… but it turned out to be a hairless raccoon.
Unfortunately, it’s common for real-life creatures that are considered to be chupacabras to turn out to be sick animals, such as dogs or coyotes with mange, a horrible disease that eats away at their flesh.
So the next time you hear of someone who has found a chupacabras, recommend they take it to the vet instead.