Recently, Internet news sites and the tabloid press have been full of tales of vampire dogs running amok in the town of Cuero, South Texas. When local rancher, Phylis Canion, discovered the corpse of a roadkill victim, she believed the creature to be an elusive chupacabras or goat-sucker. Her theory is popular amongst local residents.
Ms. Canion claims her ranch is littered with animal corpses, all drained of blood. The Sun carried the following quote from her:
"I've seen a lot of nasty stuff in my life but nothing compares to what these beasts do to my animals. At first they fed on cats' blood - then drank from chickens through a wire cage. They reached in and pulled the chickens' heads out, then latched on to the neck, sucking all the blood before leaving the bodies in the cage. More than two dozen chickens were sucked dry in this way. The birds weren't eaten or carried off - the meat was left on the bone. It's eerie".
Two similar corpses have previously been discovered in the locality, and many of her neighbours have also lost poultry and livestock. Some claim to have seen the culprits, a pack of blue-skinned hairless, dog-like creatures, sinking huge fangs into the necks of livestock, and draining them of all blood. Up to three of the creatures have been seen together just outside Cuero. Farmers are said to be too scared to leave their children outside.
Experts are not persuaded that the corpse Canion discovered is that of a chupacabras. Texas State Mammologist, John Young, believes it is the corpse of a grey fox, which was suffering from mange. He said: "When mange goes untreated it causes this type of reaction. They start to itch, lose all their hair, blue grey coloration, and the animal usually dies from it". Local vet, Dr Travis Schaar, from the Main Street Animal Hospital, based in the nearby town of Victoria, believes it is "probably just a strange breed of dog with a preference for blood". He believes the creature may have been one of a mutated litter of puppies, or maybe a new breed of dog entirely.
The mystery will soon be solved. Local TV new channel, KENS-TV, took samples from the corpse and submitted them for DNA analysis. The results are currently awaited.
Canion, who lived in Africa for four years, is a game hunter, and keeps the mounted heads of a zebra and other animals on her walls. The head of the "chupacabras", which she described as 'one ugly creature', is currently in her freezer. She intends having it stuffed and then mounted on her wall, too.
“This one hands down will draw the most attention. Because they’re gonna say you got zebras, you got this, you got that, what is this thing here? That’s what we call the South Texas taz devil".
Vampire dogs, however, are not a new phenomenon. In 1810, something was stalking and killing livestock along the Scottish-English border. Farmers often found as many as ten of their beasts dead, entirely drained of blood, but not marked or mutilated in any way, except for fang marks on their necks. Mobs armed themselves and staked out the fields, but the culprit was never sighted. The killings ended abruptly in September of that year.
In 1874, there was a spate of similar killings in Ireland. It began in January, when up to 30 sheep a night were found slaughtered in County Cavan. The corpses were described as having their throats slit open, and all blood drained from them. The killer left deep, elongated dog-like tracks. Farmers discovered a trail of corpses throughout many Irish counties and villages. Many an innocent stray dog lost its life to angry farmers, who patrolled the countryside with their shotguns.
By April, 1874, the creature terrorised Limerick, nearly a hundred miles distant from Cavan. No longer content with killing livestock, it began to savage humans too. The Cavan Weekly News, dated April 17th, 1874, stated that several people were mauled by it. The paper also said some victims had been admitted to an asylum, as they were found to be “labouring under strange symptoms of insanity.”
In the summer of 1875, a Miss Amelia Cranswell was lying awake in her bed, at the country estate of Croglin Hall, in Cumberland. Suddenly, her window shattered as an unearthly creature leapt through it, right into her bedroom. Her screaming alerted her two brothers. They smashed down her locked bedroom door, and discovered her with blood gushing from serious neck wounds. They spotted a creature bounding across their lawn and gave chase, but to no avail. Other local women were mauled by a “grisly, bony apparition.” These attacks coincided with a new wave of sheep killings.
In 1905, a spate of sheep killings occurred in Badminton, Avon. Many more stray dogs were shot dead, but the killer persisted. It was a familiar scene. The sheep had neck wounds, were drained of blood, but none of their flesh was eaten. Despite roving bands of heavily armed farmers protecting grazing grounds, the blood trail widened. By the end 1905 it had reached the Gravesend area, where more than thirty sheep were slaughtered. The mystery was never solved. (For a more in-depth historical account of so-called vampire dogs, see this article, which I have used in my research).
So is the chupacabras real? Or are there indeed vampire dogs? Cattle mutilations have a long history, and in recent times, have been linked with UFOs and their alleged occupants. Many people in Central and South America, as well as south-western regions of North America, believe in the chupacabras, with some convinced it is extra-terrestrial in nature. Phylis Canion certainly discovered something. But what? I suspect it is, as experts have implied, a fox or a dog which had been suffering a bad case of mange. My first thought, when I saw the photographs, was that the beast was a mange-riddled Doberman. Whatever the DNA analysis reveals, the creature of Cuero is one scary-looking beast.