When you want to know whether something exists, it matters what that thing is. The Chupacabra is a mythical predator which exists in South America. I should clarify that the legend claims it lives in South America, I don’t believe it exists at all. People blame the Chupacabra for many attacks on livestock. On Youtube there are videos of this thing roaming around. But what is it? If it is anything that may be able to kill livestock, then it’s a wolf or something. Mythical beings aren’t necessary.
There are lots of videos. Most of them are of a large dog-like thing with a long snout. However, many written accounts are of a bipedal gremlin-like thing. The legend of the Chubacabra is weird, but that does not mean that everything weird is the Chupacabra. Before anyone goes hunting for the Chupacabra they need to be equipped with what will uniquely identify it from a bog dog or a deformed possum. Else, all big dogs and deformed possums are a Chupacabra, and I believe in them.
There has been an explanation of the Chupacabra: it is actually dogs suffering from a deadly form of mange. Think about whether that satisfactorily explains the breadth of accounts.
A similar issue exists around Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Sasquatch and (to a lesser extent) the Abominable Snowman (I shall refer to all unconfirmed hominid-like sightings as ‘Bigfoot’). Despite these creatures having the preferred habitats of just-out-of-focus and behind some mist, videos do claim to have pictured them. Below is a map. On it, I have noted hominid fossils and alleged sighting of mythical primates. It’s a stretch, but if you take anything sensible from that evidence, it is that what I call Bigfoot is a sighting of a primate cousin of ours. You shouldn’t really conclude anything, I haven’t provided enough evidence. As it is with the Chupacabra, so it is with Big Foot; what uniquely identifies Big Foot as something more than a rare and yet unidentified primate? Or, to look at it slightly differently, does the sentence “that’s not Big Foot, that’s just some big primate” really make sense?
In part, the problem is the power of mythology. The mystery means the characters have been immortalised in TV series. Therefore we think we know something about what we are looking for (but, on enquiry, we don’t). If South America is actually home to a unique dog (but only a dog) and Europe down into Asia is home to a sparsely populated species of primate, or series of different species of primate (but just primates), then two things happen at once that we don’t like: we validate the myths and we remove all the mystery from it. Then, no one is happy. People who doubted the existence of these things have to accept they were wrong, and the people who did believe have to remove the mystery and (sometimes) supernatural qualities associated.
(I think most of these sightings are made-up and encouraged by media portrayal. I think sincerely meant sightings fuel the problem, but are actually misidentification of ‘normal’ indigenous fauna. I could be wrong.)
We can’t call any unidentified dog the Chupacabra and any unidentified primate Big Foot. We need to firmly pin down exactly what believers think exist.
1 – Denisova cave, where Denisovian man was discovered (Krause, Johannes; Fu, Qiaomei; Good, Jeffrey M.; Viola, Bence; Shunkov, Michael V.; Derevianko, Anatoli P. & Pääbo, Svante (2010), “The complete mitochondrial DNA genome of an unknown hominin from southern Siberia”, Nature 464 (7290): 894–897)
2 – Vindija Cave, where Neanderthals remains have been dated to about 33 thousand years ago.
3 – Gorham’s Cave, where Neanderthal remains are dated at less than 30 thousand years ago.
4 – A population of Cro-Magnon (early humans) with heavily Neanderthal traits.
Reference for 2 -4 Duarte, C.; Maurício, J.; Pettitt, P.B.; Souto, P.; Trinkaus, E.; van der Plicht, H.; Zilhão, J. (June 1999). “The early Upper Paleolithic human skeleton from the Abrigo do Lagar Velho (Portugal) and modern human emergence in Iberia”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96 (13): 7604–9.
5 – Original discovery of Homo Heidelbergensis. (Mounier, Aurélien; Marchal, François; Condemi, Silvana (2009). “Is Homo heidelbergensis a distinct species? New insight on the Mauer mandible”. Journal of Human Evolution 56 (3): 219–46)
6 – Java man (Homo erectus erectus), discovered by Eugene Dubois. (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301721/Java-man)
7 – Red Deer Cave man, a species that is very difficult to identify, but existed up to the end of the ice age 11 thousand years ago (Darren Curnoe, et al. (2012) Human Remains from the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition of Southwest China Suggest a Complex Evolutionary History for East Asians (PDF here)
8 – Artifacts in Riwat, Pakistan suggest early Homo occupation as early as 1.7 million years ago. (R. W. Dennell, H. M. Rendell and E. Hailwood, Late Pliocene Artefacts from Northern Pakistan , Current Anthropology, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jun., 1988), pp. 495–498)
9 – Tentatively classed as a Homo erectus, this is a sample from the middle Pleistocene. (John Kappelman et al (2009) First Homo erectus from Turkey and implications for migrations into temperate Eurasia, Physical Antropology, Vol 135, 1, pg 110-116)
A – Orang Pendek is an undocumented frequently sighted primate from Sumatra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orang_Pendek)
B – Frequent sighting of the Yeti are reported from Nepal and Tibet. This includes Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury description of the abominable snowman on Everest. It is often reported as a hominid, but analysis of a related jaw bone shows similarities with an 40,000 year old species of polar bear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeti). Buddhists in a Nepalese monastery claim to have had a hand of a Yeti, analysis has shown it to be near-human and closer to a Neanderthal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangboche_Hand)
C – The Almas on central Asia and southern Mongolia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almas_(cryptozoology)
D – The Amomongo reported from the Philippines. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amomongo)
E – Ban-manush shares many traits with the alleged Yeti, it is sighted in Pakistan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ban-manush)
F – Barmanou is another hominid looking, unconfirmed sighting. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barmanou)
G – Batutut is unrecognised by science, but Dr. John MacKinnon thinks is may be related to the (also speculative) Megathropus. Whereas Loren Coleman believes that the Batutut are a surviving population of Homo erectus or Neanderthal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batutut)
H – Chuchunya is rumoured to be 6 to 7 feet tall and live in Siberia. Bernard Heuvelmans speculates it is a relict population of Neanderthals http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuchunya). This is despite Neanderthals being shorter than early humans, and Siberia being closer to Denisovian man discoveries.
I – The Hibagon has been reported in mountainous regions of Japan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibagon)
K – Also thought (by some) to be a surviving population on Gigantopithecus, the Orang Mawas is reported by Malaysians. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orang_Mawas)
L – Having many names across Australia, the Yowie (also: quinkin, joogabinna, jurrawarra, myngawin, puttikan, gubba, doolaga, gulaga and thoolagal, yahoo, yaroma, noocoonah, wawee, pangkarlangu, jimbra and tjangara) is also a oft-reported myth. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yowie)
M – The Yeren is reported in Eastern China. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeren)