Drawing of a Chupoacabra

The Legend of the Fearsome Chupacabra in Puerto Rico


The Chupacabra is a legendary cryptid often associated with Mexico, and well-known across Latin America. One of the locations the Chupacabra has made an impact in the past is in Puerto Rico. Reportedly first sighted there during the mid 1990s, the Chupacabra made headlines across the world when livestock started mysteriously dying. Animals were found completely drained of blood through small incisions which, according to experts at the time, were not compatible with the bite of a dog, monkey or any other known carnivore from the region. More than 200 Chupacabra sightings were reported on the island in 1995 alone yet as quickly as the Chupacabra sightings started, they had stopped, leaving behind a trail of questions.

The Origins of the Chupacabra in Puerto Rico

The name "Chupacabra" is of Spanish origin meaning "goat sucker” (from chupar, meaning "to suck", and cabra, meaning “goat”) which is in reference to how the mythical beast allegedly attacks its prey.

The phenomenon of the Chupacabra has been associated with the “Vampiro de Moca" from February 1975 when a Puerto Rican legend tells of fifteen cows, three goats, two geese, and a pig that were found with puncture marks in the Rocha Barrio suburbs of Moca. Later autopsies showed that blood had been drained from their bodies. The incident made headlines and police blamed the animals' deaths on stray dogs. When a cow was found dead with similar marks on its skull, a newspaper called the phenomenon “El Vampiro de Moca.”

The 1995 Chupacabra Attacks Make the Fabled Creature as Famous as Bigfoot

A series of isolated attacks took place on the island from 1992 to 1995. In March of 1995, there was a Chupacabra incident where eight sheep were found dead. Their bodies were completely intact but their blood had been drained leaving behind puncture wounds in the chest. Paranormal researcher Mark Davenport and video producer Joe Palermo, were in Puerto Rico at the time of the attacks filming a documentary. They described the animal deaths as a continuous daily event: 

Day and night over the radio, over television, they were constantly talking about this Chupacabra activity going on - this was very serious to them. They’d wake up one morning and find the carcass of their four favorite rabbits sucked dry of blood and just lying there on the ground.

Eight sheep found dead, believed to have been attacked by the Chupacabra

Eight sheep found dead, believed to have been attacked by the Chupacabra

Five months later, there was another event, this time with more bloodshed. In August of 1995, as many as 150 farm animals and pets were killed by a predator around the Puerto Rican town of Canóvanas. Just like the sheep from the incident in March, the animals were said to have been drained of blood through small holes. 

Interestingly, in each of the cases studied, local veterinarians said the cause of death was due to puncture wounds under the right side of the neck. The wounds were about the diameter of a drinking straw and three to four inches (7.62 to 10.16cm) in length. In March 1996, the Spanish talk show Christina, aired the story about the Chupacabra, and immediately following the show there was a tremendous amount of sightings across Latin America and the United States.  The Chupacabra had become as famous as Bigfoot.

A coyote often attacks by biting the throat of the prey

A coyote often attacks by biting the throat of the prey ( Wikimedia Commons )

Varying Descriptions of the Chupacabra

There are no known photographs of the Chupacabra. Many supposed images have turned out to be nothing more than disease ridden coyotes. Thus, it is unknown what this mythical creature looks like, if it actually exists. There are however, numerous "eyewitness" accounts which vary quite a bit. The Chupacabra of Puerto Rico was described by many eyewitnesses as standing on two legs. In newspaper articles during the series of incidents, it was said to be “ some type of large ape ” and “ a vicious monkey that can run upright on its legs, slaughter goats and suck the blood from its prey .” A sound bite from an Associated Press video at the time said “ There are two big animals, as big as a man. I saw them from afar, they looked like big apes, like a mandril but I couldn't distinguish their features. "

The “typical” description of a Chupacabra sighting today seems to be more in line with a reptile or even resembling an alien archetype. Most of the claimed eyewitnesses have described a beast with a gray oval head, lizard-like skin about 3 to 4 feet in height (91 cm to 122 cm), resembling a kangaroo that is able to hop around on its hind legs. It is said to have large red eyes, fangs, and a forked tongue with sharp quills running down its back.

A Chupacabra preying on animals

A Chupacabra preying on animals ( Jeff Carter/Flickr )

Theories to Explain the Mysterious Chupacabra: The Most Important Sighting May be Untrustworthy

There are a number of theories regarding the origin of the Chupacabra. Some of the more outlandish claims suggest that the creature is a modified vampire bat or extraterrestrial pet brought to earth by aliens.

A few reports have indicated that the puncture wounds left on animals, supposedly left by the Chupacabra, number three which would be unusual for carnivores that generally have two fangs. 

Another theory purports that the Chupacabra is part of some top secret government experiment in the El Yunque National rainforest in Puerto Rico. The town of Canóvanas is only a few miles away from the border of the El Yunque and is the only tropical rainforest within the United States (28,000 acres, 43.75 square miles in size). The majority of the first Chupacabra sightings and animal attacks are said to have taken place here.

El Yunque National rainforest, Puerto Rico

El Yunque National rainforest, Puerto Rico ( Wikimedia Commons )

Puerto Rico is also home to a large population of Rhesus monkeys which are not native to Puerto Rico and often stand up on their hind legs. They were brought to the island for research back in the 1930s and several dozen managed to escape.

Then there are skeptics who contend that these incidents are by nothing more than attacks from ordinary animals such as wild dogs or coyotes. The animals go for a victim's neck, and their teeth leave wounds resembling vampire bite marks. Instead of tearing up the carcass, they simply bite the neck of the prey, leaving it to die.

One scientist, biologist Barry O’ Connor at the University of Michigan, believes that the Chupacabra is nothing more than coyotes with severe cases of Sarcoptes scabiei or the itch mite.  The animal loses its hair when mites burrow into its skin causing it to become thickened and ugly. Their faces swell and their teeth take on a more fang like appearance. Weakened by the infection, they may be more prone to attack livestock.

A lengthy investigation into the Chupacabra phenomenon was launched by author and skeptic Benjamin Redford and documented in his book The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore in 2011. It showed how eyewitness accounts of the Chupacabra could be traced back to a single individual, a woman by the name of Madelyne Tolentino. Redford claims her sole sighting became the basis for all other accounts of the creature. She offered a detailed description of the Chupacabra (spikes along its back, bipedal, dark eyes) which did not match any other known animal on the island. However, another sighting at the time came from Michael Negron a student at a nearby university who had this to say about the mythical beast

I was looking off the balcony one night, and I saw it step out of a bright light in the back yard. It was three or four feet tall, with skin like that of a dinosaur, it had bright eyes the size of hens eggs, long fangs and multicolored spikes down its head and back .

Drawing of a Chupacabra

Drawing of a Chupacabra ( LeCire/Wikimedia Commons )

Radford concluded that the description given by Tolentino, was based on the creature Sil in the science-fiction horror film Species. The alien creature, Sil, is nearly identical to Tolentino’s eyewitness sighting and she had seen the movie before her report: " It was a creature that looked like the chupacabra, with spines on its back and all... The resemblance to the chupacabra was really impressive, " Tolentino reported. Radford revealed that Tolentino " believed that the creatures and events she saw in Species were happening in reality in Puerto Rico at the time, " and therefore concludes that " the most important chupacabra description cannot be trusted.

The Results of the Paranormal or Over-Active Imaginations?

The mystery of Chupacabra seems to have become somewhat diluted with time. As of this writing, there have been thousands of articles written on the topic, along with documentaries, television programs, and several books with not much in the way of hard evidence.

The “original” Chupacabra sightings have manifested into sightings of the mythical creature from across the world in remote places such as the Philippines and Russia.  However, what happened in Puerto Rico seems to have been something unto itself which leaves one wondering how much of it was paranormal and how much was due to the human imagination.

Featured Image: Drawing of a Chupoacabra ( Michael Snipes/Flickr )

By Bryan Hill


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"Puerto Rico 'Vampire' Feeds Fear and Satire : Mystery: Rising Number of Blood-drained Animals Are Found. As Newspapers Ridicule Incidents, Search Parties Are Formed." Los Angeles Times.

Radford, Benjamin. "Chupacabra: Facts about the Mysterious Vampire Beast." LiveScience. October 16, 2012.

"1975, February~July: The Vampire of Moca." Anomalies: The Strange & Unexplained.

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Than, Ker. "Chupacabra Science: How Evolution Made a Mythical Monster." National Geographic. October 30, 2010.

Monsterquest. A & E Television Networks :, 2008. DVD


Why take this or Bigfoot stories serious. Kind of disappointing.

Lightn up toongirl! The ‘subject matter’, although it is only one of speculation, should be considered and presented in light of the FACT that, several years ago, the British Academy of Sciences asked for, AND RECEIVED, permission to create a chimera. The goal of science to play God should not be discounted when reading about these ‘urban lagends’. They may very well have their roots in fact. If the BAS has received permission openly, it is an easy asumption they they‘ve already attempted it in some manner and perhaps even created one already. We can only begin to speculate what has been going on in laboratories world wide; for decades, perhaps more. Government laboratories aren’t the most transparent of institutions.

Dead animals is one thing. Dead animals with their blood completely drained and with no other wounds is quite another. And it hasn’t happened only once. It’s a topic worthy of consideration regardless of the lack of good graphics or evidence. Why is it we can talk about fairies but not the chupa?


@ Bryan Hill: This sort of subject matter is what cheapens Ancient Origins as a respected anthro/ archaeology site. Honestly, could you find any -cheesier- graphics to use? Sheesh.

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