Artistic renderings often depict it as having blue-hued skin, a forked tongue, claws, red eyes, protruding fangs and a spiky patch of hair running down its back.
A mythical creature born of Hispanic lore, the mysterious chupacabra inspires fear and awe in children and scientists alike.
Translated from Spanish, chupacabra means "goat sucker," in reference to its apparent appetite for the blood of livestock. Artistic renderings often depict it as having blue-hued skin, a forked tongue, claws, red eyes, protruding fangs and a spiky patch of hair running down its back.
Reports of chupacabra sightings surfaced about a decade ago in the Puerto Rican town of Canóvanas, according to news reports. Chupacabras have also allegedly been spotted in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, Chile, New Orleans, Florida and Texas.
Tales of the vampiric monster continue to become more widespread, even though scientists have labeled the chupacabra as nothing more than a contemporary legend used as a scapegoat by farmers to explain missing livestock and by parents to scare small children into coming home before sundown.
The few people who claim to have seen the creature describe the chupacabra as a cross between a greyhound dog, a large Chihuahua and a mangy coyote. In fact, many supposed chupacabras turn out to be wild dogs, foxes or coyotes.
For example, a hairless "chupacabra" found in Cuero, Texas, in 2007 was identified as a coyote by biologists at Texas State University-San Marcos.
The DNA sequence is a virtually identical match to DNA from the coyote, Mike Forstner of the biology department at Texas State told news sources. This is probably the answer a lot of folks thought might be the outcome. I, myself, really thought it was a domestic dog, but the Cuero chupacabra is a Texas Coyote.
Although scientists were able to identify the strange creature after running DNA tests on its remains, they were baffled by its eerie appearance its skin was blue-tinted and hairless.
That is the best part about science - the first answers often lead to more questions and then better explanations of the world in which we live, Forstner said. We've taken additional skin samples and we will try to determine the cause of the hair loss."
Last year, another unidentifiable specimen of a dog or coyote was found in Blanco, Texas. The man who found it had laid out poisoned bait for the animal after it attacked his chickens. The body was then given to Jerry Ayer, a taxidermist who stuffed the strange creature and sold it to a creationist museum in Phoenix, N.Y., where it was touted as a chupacabra.
Tissue samples were taken, though DNA results have not been revealed.
"I still don't know what it is; in my opinion it's some sort of genetically defective coyote," Ayer told LiveScience, a sister site of Life's Little Mysteries.
As well as being the focus of countless documentaries and appearing in episodes of "The Simpsons," "Scooby-Doo," "The X-Files" and "Futurama," the chupacabra has had more than a dozen films made about it, ranging from horrific to hilarious and including such gems as ''Chupacabra: Dark Seas,'' where the monster runs amok on a cruise liner.
This is fun, not scary, but if people are worried about the chupacabra, it is probably even more important that we explain the mystery, Forstner said. Folks can fear what they don't understand, and a big part of the goal in science is to explain the natural world.