a zoologically unknown, blood-sucking creature prowl the South
Lacking a pedigree and being a long way from official acceptance,
it does have a name: Chupacabra. That’s a combination of two Spanish
words, the verb “chupar,” which means to suck and the noun “cabra,”
No one so far has suggested that chupacabras have gone vampire to
the extent of attacking humans, but they are reputed to be mighty
fond of goats, smaller animals and chickens.
for yard eggs is what propelled Phylis Canion into the zoological
Twilight Zone. Not long after moving to DeWitt
County from Africa, where her husband Steve had worked four
years for an oil company, Canion bought some chickens to range the
home pasture of their ranch outside Cuero.
You have to break an egg to make an omelet, but Canion wasn’t even
getting any eggs. Her chickens started disappearing. Assuming bobcats
or coyotes to be the culprits, she set up a video surveillance camera
to identify the chicken thief.
She did catch a chicken-swiping bobcat on video and eventually shot
one she thought might have been the guilty party. But then she found
a dead chicken that appeared to have been sucked dry of blood. Knowing
that bobcats and coyotes take their chicken dinners to go, not leaving
meat behind, she began wondering what was going on.
Something went on to exsanguinate 26 of her chickens. Canion’s brother
suggested she might have a chupacabra afoot, but she did not take
that seriously even though she and her sister had both seen an animal
on the ranch they could not identify.
showed up on her video monitoring system, but one morning last summer
a neighbor called about 7:45 and said he had seen an unusual looking
road kill near her ranch, which is just off U.S. 183 south of Cuero.
Five minutes later she stared at a creature like nothing she had
ever seen before. She returned to her ranch and got a tractor with
a front end loader to carry the carrion to her place for further
She laid the animal, which weighed about 40 pounds, on a feed sack
and photographed it. Then she skinned it, keeping its grayish-blue
hide and head. It had big ears, blue eyes, a long snout, two canine
incisors and two worn lower incisors – but no other teeth. Unable
to chew, it could have gotten by sucking blood through wounds made
by its incisors.
The animal also had no hair, except for short, mane-like tufts along
its spine. Its hind legs were longer than its front legs, and the
paws on the back feet were different from the front paws. No one
who has seen the frozen head questions that it looks strange. Definitely
dog-like, but different as well. Two other similar creatures were
found dead in the area within four days, though no one else kept
The local Parks and Wildlife Department game warden sent a picture
of the head to headquarters in Austin,
but Canion has not heard anything back.
Game Warden Mike Bradshaw, stationed for more than 30 years deep
in the South Texas
brush country at Carrizo
Springs has heard plenty of chupacabra stories, but he’s never
Nor has he seen the animal found near Cuero.
Even so, he has a theory.
“I’d put my money on it being a mangy coyote,” he said.
Canion still awaits the test results of a tissue sample sent for
analysis to Texas State University in San
Marcos. Similar testing on a weird-looking creature found by
a rancher near San Antonio
in 2004 – the media dubbed it the Elmendorf Beast – came back showing
it was a coyote with mange.
matter the animal’s DNA, its unusual appearance places it in another
zoological category as far as Canion is concerned. Chupacabras and
all other unknown or mythical animals are known as cryptids, and
the study of them is called cryptozoology.
And chupacabras are third on the top three listing of mythical creatures,
behind Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster, in that order. Theories
range from chupacabras being an unknown species that has moved into
Texas from South America to a mangy coyote to some form of hybrid.
Canion says she intends to have a taxidermist mount the strange
head and put a stuffed chicken in its mouth. The trophy will join
the mounted elk, whitetail, bobcat and zebra in their paneled den.
Whatever the hairless creature is, it has stimulated the local economy
a bit and given Cuero
international name recognition. The initial Associated Press story
on the critter got worldwide play, all the major broadcast and cable
networks have done stories, and the Discovery Channel has filmed
two segments on the mysterious animal. The Canions agreed to display
the head at the annual Cuero Turkey Fest and it drew quite a crowd.
Though Canion and her husband have sold more than 9,000 blue-on-gray
t-shirts that read “2007 The Summer of the Chupacabra Cuero, Texas”
for $5 each, she bristles at the suggestion that she’s out to make
money off the critter.
“I’m happy to get a little recognition for Cuero,”
she said, “but this is not about money.”
head she owns may or may not be from a chupacabra, but Canion has
become Cuero’s Chupacabra Lady. When someone sent her a letter addressed
only “The Chupacabra Lady, Cuero,
Texas,” the Post Office delivered it to her.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" October
24, 2007 column