Texas State University Researcher Helps Unravel Mystery of Texas ‘Blue Dog’ Claimed to be Chupacabra

chupacabraPhylis Canion, a Texas rancher, believes that a strange, hairless, bluish-skinned animal on her property back in 2007 may be the mythical “el chupacabra,” which is believed to be responsible for blood draining in livestock such as goats and chickens.

Canion’s discovery has received a fair amount of attention due to a new TV series called “The Unexplained Files.”  Canion’s strange carcass was investigated in April 2008 for the “MonsterQuest” TV show.

In 2007, Canion purportedly observed a bluish-gray, hairless animal lurking around her ranch (actually, 3 of them) and suspected them of killing more than 24 chickens over a several year period.  According to Canion, “Not long after I had seen the first , I came home and there was a chicken dead, but not carried off. It appeared to have all of the blood drained out of it.”  She finally decided to try and capture the strange-looking animal, either alive or on videotape.

Canion said she set up a video camera and began filming where the chickens were.  After months passed by, the animal remained elusive.  On July 14, 2007, a neighbor contacted Canion to tell her that there was a strange animal lying on the road near her ranch.  She photographed the carcass.  Apparently it had large ears, large fanged teeth with grayish-blue elephantine skin.  Canion took the carcass and had it taxidermied and now proudly displays it in her home.  Her discovery made national news and many people wondered is she had actually found the elusive chupacabra.  To determine what she had found, scientists offered to do genetic testing on the taxidermied animal.

Michael Forstner, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biology at Texas State University, San Marcos, ran the DNA testing of the so called “blue dog.”

According to Forstner, “In this case we had the material…I mean, it’s a vertebrate. It’s not going to be hard to match this, there are markers for mitochondrial DNA that are easy enough to match against almost any vertebrate on the planet, and those are available on GenBank. So we went to work and indeed that’s pretty much where we ended up…. The sequencing immediately went to the family Canidae, and our immediate concern was that this was going to turn out to be somebody’s pet dog.”

However, quickly it became clear that the animal was not a dog when a genetic marker identified it as a coyote.  Forstner notes,  “We got the sequences back, uniquely within coyote there’s an area of the D-loop, which is the area of mitochondrial DNA… it gives us data on things that are closely related… Uniquely in coyotes there’s a deletion of several bases in one section, and another deletion in another area of an additional seven-base block. Turns out that the sequences that came back had those two unique deletions, and did not match any dogs or wolf. It came back with 97 percent confidence that it was Canis latrans, which is the coyote.”

Canion was not happy with the results, so she commissioned a second DNA test at a genetics lab st the University of California at Davis.  Essentially, the new test confirmed the findings from the University of Texas.

However, with a slight twist:  Canion’s animal turned out to be a hybrid.

This is not surprising as dogs, wolves, coyotes and other animals in the canid family will interbreed.  Wildlife experts have studied coyote/wolf  hybrids for years.  Wildlife experts point out that “coywolves” do not suck blood, nor do they have blue skin.

The question is, what about the blue elephantine skin color?  It was suggested that the animal was afflicted with a mite infection such as sarcoptic mange.  Sarcoptic mange causes loss of hair.  Most people don’t generally see an animal in advanced-staged mange.  These animals can often look very strange.

As for Canion’s claims that her chickens were bloodless, science comes to the rescue.  When an animal dies, blood begins to clot and creates an appearance of missing blood.  The blood hasn’t gone anywhere.  It has dried up because the water has evaporated.

Photo from http://news.discovery.com

About Chris Comish

Chris Comish
Chris Comish is the Publisher, President, and CEO of BioNews Texas. He is an influencer in the Texas biotech industry and guides the editorial and content direction of the publication.
  • Miguel

    There is a hairless breed of dog in Mexico with very similar appearance. Tgey are called Xolo’s for short as full native Mexican name is hard to pronounce. Perhaps this animal and similar are stray Xols or a coy mix with Xolo. It would easily explain the hairlessness.


    In the 1960′s my parents had an ancient Scottie afflicted with sarcoptic mange. Gigi had lost most of the hair on his back and his skin showed and it was, indeed very blue. I think that the suggestion that this animal suffered from mange is very reasonable.

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