The chupacabra has been called the Bigfoot of Latino culture, an urban legend said to drain the blood of goats and other farm animals from South America to South Texas. It’s very name is Spanish for “goat sucker.” And like Bigfoot, the chupacabra also has eluded capture and provided no credible evidence that it exists.

Still, at least one Texas scientist sees the chupacabra as both a cultural phenomenon and a modern spin on the world’s most storied bloodsucker.

“It’s basically a vampire or a small, evil, fairy-type creature, which are popular archetypes in Latino culture,” says Ken Gerhard, a docent at the San Antonio Zoo and a widely recognized cryptozoologist.

Cryptozoology is the study and search for so-called “cryptids,” hidden animals whose existence defies scientific evidence or substantiation, such as Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster, bizarre beasts that live on in alleged sightings and indecipherable photos and videos.

Gerhard has traveled the world in search of such “X-Files” fare, as skeptical as Dana Scully yet still wanting to believe like Fox Mulder. “I’ve never found one yet,” Gerhard said. “But I still look.”

When it comes to chupacabras, Gerhard says they just aren’t the most credible cryptids. He noted there’s neither physical evidence a chupacabra exists nor any sort of biological reality or animal group that a chupacabra would fit in to.

“It’s almost a little bit too weird,” Gerhard says.

Yet more than 25 years since its first alleged sighting, Gerhard says the chupacabra remains a quirky boogeyman that fits well into pop culture and especially Latin culture.

So much so that the San Antonio Zoo opened the first-ever chupacabra exhibit at a zoological facility in September. Located near the zoo’s bat habitat, a replica of the fabled creature greets patrons with a face full of fangs and a back full of quills.

“We’re excited to educate the public and our visitors about the elusive and legendary chupacabra,” San Antonio Zoo president and CEO Tim Morrow said in a statement at the time. “This new one-of-a-kind habitat is sure to spark both the imagination of what wildlife exists that we haven’t yet discovered and the desire to conserve species, both known and unknown.”

Just days after that zoo debut, an anonymous rancher on San Antonio’s South Side reportedly killed a strange creature that was stalking his livestock. His first guess: “Chupacabra!” But Rob Coke, director of veterinary care at the San Antonio Zoo, looked at photos of the carcass and deemed it a coyote with mange.

Chupa-fact or chupa-fiction? Here’s what we know about the chupacabra. At least, what they want us to know.

A Puerto Rican export. The chupacabra, or “Venator nocturnus,” according to the San Antonio Zoo exhibit, stalks most of South and Central America, as well as northern Mexico and the southern United States. That is, according to reports of livestock deaths attributed to the creature.

The first chupacabra sightings date back to March 1995 in Puerto Rico, where reports circulated of several sheep found dead with puncture wounds to the chest and purportedly drained of their blood.

A comedian came up with the name. Puerto Rican comedian Silverio Pérez coined the term “chupacabra” in 1995 while discussing the creature’s attacks. The Spanish word translates to “goat-sucker,” as in “chupa” (“to suck”) and “cabra” (“goat”).

An urban legend with different legs. The chupacabra often is described as a hairless reptilian creature around 3 feet tall with gray-green skin and spines or quills down its back. How it walks depends on where it’s spotted.

South and Central America sightings describe the chupacabra as a goblinlike humanoid that walks upright on two legs, while sightings in Mexico and the U.S. describe the chupacabra as a canine or doglike creature that walks on all fours.

Gerhard was not involved in the chupacabra exhibit at the San Antonio Zoo but says the cryptid’s canine-leaning depiction is “a wonderful synthesis” of the varying chupacabra descriptions.

H.R. Giger may have inspired the first description. The first eyewitness account of the chupacabra likens its appearance to Sil, a sinewy alien-human hybrid with spines down her back in the 1995 sci-fi horror film, “Species.” Sil was designed by H.R. Giger, the Swiss artist famous for the title terror of the “Alien” films.

In August 1995, Madelyne Tolentino in Puerto Rico alleged she saw a chupacabra in the municipality of Canóvanas. Researcher and skeptic Benjamin Radford interviewed Tolentino for his 2011 book, “Tracking the Chupacabra.” He concluded her description was based on the creature from “Species,” which Tolentino had seen just the week before her report.

Gerhard believes the internet popularized Tolentino’s description and variations spun from there.

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