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Blood-sucking fiends of the night; with their long legs and sharp teeth, they envelop their victims in a scarlet kiss. No, I'm not talking about voluptuous, Slavic-accented vampires. I'm talking about "El Chupacabra," the mysterious "goat-sucker" who continues to haunt farms and small communities throughout the Americas, and even in our own backyards. Yet are these critters fact or fiction?
Chupacabras are thought to be similar to European Chimeras or Griffins, creatures who are composites of various animals and are therefore monstrous in appearance. The first sightings of the chupacabra were reported in Puerto Rico in the late 1950s. Since then, many have reported seeing the creature in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and the southern United States (although some have even "appeared" in the Northern regions of Maine and Russia).
Many in the scientific community theorize that the animal is likely some unknown species of canidae, or the dog family. Other individuals hypothesize that the creature is a type of pet left behind by extraterrestrial visitors, due to their reported, uncanny resemblance to our favorite space aliens, the "grays" (the ones with large, oval heads and saucer-like, puppy-dog eyes). Still others claim that the chupacabra is an escaped government experiment; an alien/animal crossbreed developd by NASA. One South American veterinarian has also proposed that it is a [very] distant genetic cousin of the vampire bat. However, due the wide variation of information found in reports, most tend to dismiss the chupacabra as an urban legend.
El Chupacabra is most commonly reported to be a reptile-like creature with pea-green skin, and sharp spines or quills running down along its back. The chupacabra is a two-legged animal, three to four feet tall. However, some have claimed that they are actually closer to the size of a small bear. Although the chupacabra is generally bipedal, most reports claim that it uses its strong hind legs like a kangaroo to jump long distances rather than walking. In at least one sighting, the creature hopped over 20 feet (6 m) in the air. They are said to have a dog or panther-like muzzle and face, a forked tongue, large fangs, and red, mesmerizing eyes.
Many reports mention a strong, sulfuric odor that stings the air when the creature approaches, while others say there is none at all. Another variety of chupacabra is a thin-haired wild dog with a protruding spine, deep eye-sockets, and claws. Pathologists at UNAN-Leon studied the corpse of a dog-like creature found in Nicaragua, and found it to be representative of the unspecified genus. However, unlike other canines, the chupacabra is said to suck their prey's blood through one or two holes made by fangs, sharp claws, or even their sharp, barbed tongues.
Although vampiric animals like the chupacabra were first mentioned as early as the 1950s, the first official report was filed in 1987, when Puerto Rican newspapers described multiple attacks made on local livestock. In spite of their nominal fondness for goats, chupacabras have been accused of killing chickens, pigs, horses, birds, and even human beings.
In March of 1995, Denise Padilla of Puerto Rico discovered eight dead sheep, completely drained of blood, all with the same, circular puncture wounds in the chest. Shortly after the deaths in Puerto Rico, other livestock deaths were reported in the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, and Peru.
On Saturday, April 29, 2000, Jose Ismael Pino, a 59 year-old, farm worker, claims he had a face-to-face meeting with the Chupacabra:
"It hardly moved. It just stood there, looking at me. It stood about 1.5 meters tall, like a big monkey, with long clawed arms, enormous fangs protruding from its mouth, as well as a pair of wings. I was so scared I turned and ran back for the hounds. I set them all loose and let them chase after 'The Bird...' one came back with a bloodstained neck."
In Coleman, a Texas farmer named Reggie Lagow caught an animal in a trap he set after the deaths of a number of his chickens and turkeys. Local news casts described the animal as a mix between a hairless dog, a rat and a kangaroo. The animal was provided to Texas Parks and Wildlife in order to determine what species it belonged to, but Lagow reported in a September 17th, 2006 that the "critter was caught on a Tuesday and thrown out in Thursday's trash."
In May 2007, a series of reports on national Colombia news reported more than 300 dead sheep in the region of Boyacá, while later that year in August, Phylis Canion claimed to have found three chupacabra corpses on a ranch in Cuero, Texas. She took photographs of the corpses and preserved the head of one in her freezer before turning it over for DNA analysis. Results are pending.
You Oughta' Be in Pictures
The popularity of El Chupacabra has caused it to appear in numerous books, movies, and other merchandise. In Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico and Vuelve el Chupacabras, the fanged-critters terrorize local farmers and residents. The chupacabra has also made in appearance in TV shows like "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy," "The X-files," and "The Venture Bros." Finally, a satirical article published in "The Onion," blames the chupacabra for Mexico's political issues.
So, if you're tired of the same old blood-sucking fiends this Halloween, why not give "El Chupacabra" a try?