The chupacabra is one of the most recent additions to the cryptid family. Stories of it first appeared in 1995 as an explanation for a rash of livestock deaths in Puerto Rico. According to legend over 100 animals died in a short span, most of them goats, almost all of them drained of blood. This leads to the name, chupacabra, which translated is goat-sucker. From what most people can tell there was, in fact, several incidents in Puerto Rico in a short period of time where wild animals killed livestock and pets. Like many stories that were later blamed on cryptids, the details are fuzzy, but not nearly as brutal as the stories.
Like other cryptids, once the chupacabra made the scene, stories and legends much older were reintroduced, now with the question of whether or not the chupacabra was to blame — notably another livestock killing incident in Puerto Rico only this one taking place in 1975. Stories changed over time, numbers and details were once again inflated, and suddenly the two events likely had the same culprit. Honestly, the two were likely done by similar animals, just like most livestock killings. Whatever predator is in the area where livestock is raised is probably the cause. Livestock killings are pretty rare, however, much to some people’s surprise. So people look for explanations, and in some cases, legend and lore becomes an agreed-upon answer for parts of the community.
What I find fascinating about the chupacabra is the total divide between the Puerto Rico incident and what the legend has formed. By and large people with only a passing interest in cryptids would believe that the chupacabra is somehow related to Mexico and Texas, this applies to myself. Hell, even growing up I had heard it called “The Mexican Goat Sucker” with no lack of books on legends like this that were about the American southwest and featured the animal. In Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare one of the legendary creatures you can hunt is a chupacabra, and it is found in the Mexico area of the map.
This divide is slightly odd for the “normal” way cryptid stories play out. Generally speaking, there is an agreed-upon area where a cryptid is most likely to be spotted. Mexico and the American southwest falls into this. Puerto Rico, where the legend started, is an island. There are some stories of the chupacabra attributed to Central America which would make some degree of sense, if somehow the animal/legend got off the island, but it is still odd.
Not only is there a divide in location, but the chupacabra is one of the most highly disagreed on animals as far as how it looks. Some people say it is more dog-like but smooth skin and pronounced ridges. This makes a lot of sense, especially if you take say a coyote, desperate enough to approach a farm. Such an animal would have noticeable bones, and it would likely be missing hair. Or you don’t even have to go that far and think of hairless dogs. However, the 1995 incident was blamed on a more reptilian animal that was even bipedal with spikes.
Differences in appearance are not uncommon for sighting stories, but this is fairly stark. A likely misidentified dog or coyote with mange, versus something that at one point people theorized the movie Species influenced the description of?
I am not a believer (sorry) and only have an amateur interest in cryptozoology, but this drastic of a difference in ideas is not something I have experienced.
It makes sense that people in Puerto Rico would have their description and explanation because that is their shared experience. Likewise, people in Mexico, Texas, etc. would have theirs. The separate areas have each come up with this animal, and say it does similar things (mainly killing livestock and small animals and drinking their blood). But with vastly different descriptions.
What remains an interesting question for me is how the chupacabra, which is agreed upon to having started in Puerto Rico, became known for a different area. There is the logic of people from Puerto Rico moving to Mexico and Texas, and it spreading or spreading through family. However, it is important to remember this legend is not old; I am older than it. So where other legends would have more time to develop the chupacabra one did not. Not only that, but again there is still the stark divide in the description.
The answer I think lays in the fact that both Puerto Rico and Mexico/Texas face livestock deaths, and a natural result of that is legends popping up to explain them. It is likely that after the 1995 Puerto Rico incidents that rumors spread and people in other areas heard about it. When they similarly lost livestock, they thought about the chupacabra from Puerto Rico, and then it took off from there.
The difference in appearance is a bit iffier. The dog-like description makes sense. In the dark, a hairless underweight dog, or coyote with mange would not look natural to the human eye. The Puerto Rico description is harder to reconcile and explain. It could be that a sci-fi movie really inspired it and that over time the rumor and the phenomena of a shared experience took off. I don’t know nearly enough about the human mind to dig too deeply into that.
I do know that I started out thinking “I wouldn’t mind doing an exploring post on a cryptid” I picked the chupacabra because I enjoy things from the American Southwest. I did not realize that what I knew was only part of the story. I am absolutely fascinated by something so relatively young having this sort of duel growing with some key disparities.
The point of these exploring posts was more for me to research into something and try to share what I learned (and had already known) with my readers. It was my goal with this one in fact. The issue is there is not a satisfying explanation for how a relatively young legend divided and grew the way that it did. I wanted to provide more than just my vague theory, but I honestly can’t because the question has not been answered. But while that means this post is a bit different than what I had initially thought I would write, I still thought it was fascinating enough to share.
The chupacabra that I grew up with and its place in the worlds of cryptids is cool. What is even cooler is learning how a livestock incident led to two different yet “the same” legends growing quickly in a short time simultaneously but with significant and notable differences.