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Thursday, November 19, 2009

DALE DRINNON: Chupacabra part 2

This paste-up is also from the files of the Frontiers of Zoology group and features the CFZ's own chupacabras representation.

I had remarked before that I first heard of a chupacabras creature in the mid 1970s as a FOAF report originating in the American SW: and it was described basically as being like a small spiky-backed dinosaur or a big iguana lizard, said to be raiding livestock. It was actually a story meant as an explanation of 'cattle mutilations', then a big news item. so the first example I heard of was a cattle-mutilations creature that was a spiky-backed lizard, and the name chupacabras not invented for such a creature yet.

I have since learned that there is a traditional Mexican version of this small dinosaur creature, usually said to raid graves and eat the bodies. A version of the legend has made its way into standard D&D lore as the fantasy creature known as the bone-snapper.

At any rate, when chupacabras reports proper started to emerge later on, several of the reports specified a small dinosaur or large spiky-backed lizard creature, sometimes said to run or jump away on its hind legs. The montage cuts together several representations of these.
Eberhart's Mysterious Creatures has an entry on such creatures under the heading 'Giant North American Lizard' but the first name I heard in common usage for them was Mountain Boomer. Other sources call them 'Mini-Rex.' And Ivan Sanderson's archives included separate letters from two unrelated sources writing about such a 'Small dinosaur' from the Arkansas-Oklahoma area, neither one of which was ever published. Some iguanid lizards do get up and run away on their hind legs, including the collared lizard (the more usual 'Mountain Boomer').

When the spiky-backed 'Chupacabras' reports started coming out of Puerto Rico, some sort of large iguanid lizard might have been involved. It probably would not be the same species as reported in Texas, Arkansas-Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and Mexico but it could have been something similar. The depiction does look like the front end of an iguana. And male iguanid lizards are known to have red eyes.

If it is necessary to be said, I don't think the lizards actually do any cattle mutilations or goat-sucking, or even digging up graves and breaking the bones. They only get blamed for that. What does that most often (and in just about the whole world over) is feral dogs, and they leave regular dog tracks (Ref. photos also on file in the group)


Retrieverman said...

Keep in mind that there are large Iguanid lizards in the US, such as the Chuckwallas and desert iguanas. Collared lizards are also large native lizards in the suborder Iguania.

We also have plenty of introduced iguanas in the US. I remember when wild caught green iguanas could be purchase for a song. Iguanas are very hard to keep properly and are not for novice lizard owners. Of course those people who bought them soon discovered this fact, and many were turned out.

I doubt that a big tropical iguana could live very long in the wild outside of South Texas or South Florida. However, they could survive for a summer.

Anonymous said...

Actually, large Iguanas do make a pretty useful explanation for the chupacabras sightings. Imagine this scenario:

A smallholder or farmer hears a commotion in his chicken run one night. He grabs a gun, and maybe a torch too and goes out for a look, thinking he's got a fox at his birds. When he gets close in, something reptilian and weird runs away at speed into the bushes.

What has actually happened is that a local feral iguana has been snoozing fitfully over near the chicken run, being no harm to anybody since early evening. A fox or feral dog turned up, waking and seriously scaring the Iguana which although frightened is cool because it is night, and so stays put, hoping not to be seen. The commotion of the chickens, caused by their being scared of the fox or dog, fetches out the farmer.

Not having been born yesterday and knowing that mutterings of the local equivalent of "Gah, there be a fox arfter the chickens, gerroff moi land!" and the noise of a farmer tramping out of his house and down towards the chickens usually means a close encounter of the shotgun variety, the fox or dog scarpers rapidly and silently before the man appears.

Not so the iguana. By now this poor lizard is seriously spooked but it is a reptile, it cannot move all that fast if cold and in the dark. It only runs off when the farmer is almost on top of it, and then pretty clumsily, running on its back legs to try to put ground between it and him as efficiently as possible. By day it probably saw him coming and got out of the way unseen; by night it sounds like a herd of marauding elephants as it runs off (and probably becomes the feral dog's evening meal, if it doesn't get up a tree pronto).

By morning, we have dog-like prints, scared chickens and a weird scary (and scared) reptilian wotsit seen by the farmer; ingredients for the legend.

Cullan Hudson said...

As someone who has spent the past three years living in Puerto Rico and studying the origins of this phenomenon, I must say there are some intriguing points brought up in your post. I've certainly formulated some similar ideas in my own research. However, I'm also the author of Strange State: Mysteries and Legends of Oklahoma, and must confess I'm greatly intrigued by the OK/AR "dinosaur" at which you hint. Do you have further information on this that you could share? I'm currently at work on a companion volume to my book on Oklahoma mysteries.

Dale Drinnon said...

Thanks, guys, the comments are appreciated.

To Cullen: I am sorry, but I do not oversee my own blog entries for the CFZ, Jon puts them up. Consequently I never even see the comments until I might happen to look back again. And so unfortunately I did not see your comment until more than a year later. If you are still interested in my information, it is available to you anytime, just contact me through my ordinary email at


And once again, I truly regret that I missed your comment earlier.