On a warm August day in 2015 workers digging on the side of Highway 22 near the town of Xuilub in the Mexican state of Yucatán spotted what appeared to be an animal carcass some three meters off the shoulder of the road, possibly hit by a passing car. The laborers walked over to the dead animal and decided to cease work immediately. Before them was a partially buried dead creature that was unlike any animal they had ever seen. It had the head of a bull, hind legs of a horse and a slender, furry body. It looked like it could have been part human. The workers left the area and contacted the authorities in the nearby city of Valladolid. When investigators arrived at the scene a few hours later all that remained was a heap of black fur and very little flesh of the creature. People in the area told investigators that a similar strange animal carcass had been found southwest of Valladolid, with the body of the creature taken to the police station in the town of Kanxoc. While officials seemed puzzled, the local indigenous Maya knew what the creature was. They call it a Huay Chivo.
The name of the creature is a blend of Maya and Spanish. The word Huay comes from the modern Yucatec Maya word waay which means sorcerer or animal familiar. Through reading ancient Maya hieroglyphs alongside associated imagery, the word for a shape-shifting sorcerer in the Classic Maya World of fifteen hundred years ago was wa-ya. Various wa-ya found on pottery, murals and other examples of ancient Maya decorative art were usually depicted as fierce animals with red scarves tied around their necks. The second part of the name for the creature, chivo, comes from Spanish and means “goat.” So, essentially, the name of this Mexican cryptid means “shape-shifting sorcerer goat.”
From the perspective of investigating cryptids, or unknown creatures yet to be discovered or described, the idea that this creature could be some type of goat or goat hybrid is somewhat problematic. Goats were introduced to Mexico with the arrival of the Spanish and it is clear that the Huay Chivo dates back more than 500 years and deep into the antiquity of the Yucatán. According to ancient Maya legend the Huay Chivo can take on the shape of many animals, from deer to jaguars, and thus does not have a uniform appearance. Beyond the legends and ancient myths, the modern idea of a blend of goat and human to make a Huay Chivo only dates back a few hundred years. Modern sightings of this creature have been more uniform: it stands and walks upright, it is covered with thick black fur, it has the torso of a human, legs of a horse or goat and the head of a goat. Its eyes are always red. It can stand anywhere from four feet tall to six feet tall. Its feet are not cloven, but more human-like and larger than a human’s. It has never been known to attack people, only livestock and forest animals. The Huay Chivo has been blamed for many mysterious deaths of cattle, goats and chickens throughout its range which includes three Mexican states – Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo – along with the Petén region of northern Guatemala and the jungle areas of Belize. The creature is nocturnal and usually prowls around after midnight. It has never been seen alive in the light of day. We have photos of dead bodies and samples of fur, but no Huay Chivo has ever been captured alive and no extensive studies on alleged remains have ever been known to be done. The whereabouts of the carcass taken to the Kanxoc police station are unknown. Many people connect the Huay Chivo to the Chupacabra, which is a relatively recent cryptid with slightly similar characteristics. Please see Mexico Unexplained Episode Number 4 to learn more about the Chupacabra. Others see similarities between the Huay Chivo and the Aztec Nagual, a snarling feline-looking dog-like creature that has also been connected to shape-shifting sorcerers in ancient lore. Please see Mexico Unexplained Episode Number 36 for more information about the Nagual.
In 2013 William May Amézquita, then 57 years old, told his Huay Chivo story to Yucatán-based news service Repoteros Hoy which published it in an article called “Asegura que vio al Huay Chivo,” or in English, “He Surely Saw a Huay Chivo.” William saw the creature when he was a little boy in the 1960s. He grew up in the neighborhood of Xoclán in the city of Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. Back then, the neighborhood was near the outskirts of town and the local children would play in an area where there were caves near an old convent. Parents of the children cautioned them to stay away from this area, especially at night, because there were strange creatures lurking about. One night, William was walking on a deserted road near the convent and he heard something that seemed like the galloping of a horse. He turned around and came face to face with a bizarre animal heading toward him. It was what appeared to be an upright bull running down the road, like a man. The young William jumped into some bushes on the side of the road to avoid being run over by the creature, who just kept running down the road. When the little boy got home, his mother told him that he had had an encounter with a Huay Chivo.
As previously touched upon, the Huay Chivo legend goes back to the ancient Maya. Traditionally, the creature is a shape-shifting sorcerer, who summons evil forces to change into a beast. As part of the ritual, the sorcerer must take off his head first and leave it in his house before he transforms. The person making the transformation is always a man, never a woman. The only harm that he can cause to humans is fever and brief sickness; a bad odor is supposed to accompany the creature and this “sick air” causes minor maladies in people who cross its path. The Huay Chivo of the ancient legends only harms livestock and jungle animals.
There is a modern take on the Huay Chivo legend dating back several generations in the Yucatán. In the modern legend the creature was once a young man living in Mérida, the capital of Mexican state of Yucatán. In addition to being handsome, he was intelligent, a very hard worker and very ambitious, but he was from a poor family. He caught the eye of a beautiful young woman whose parents were merchants in the city and who owned a large hacienda outside of town stocked with lots of animals, mostly cows and goats. The young woman thought the man to be very physically attractive but told him that he was not from the right social class for her and she needed to marry someone who was more fitting of her status. The young man, full of rage at being rebuffed, went into the jungle outside of town and screamed at the top of his lungs. In his wild anger he called upon the Devil. In a flash of smoke and Sulphur, the Devil appeared and asked how he could be of assistance. The young man told the Devil that he would sell his soul to be around the beautiful young woman, he would do anything to spend his entire earthly life with this person, even at the expense of eternity. The Devil said he could grant him this wish, and with a flourish of his hands, the Prince of Darkness turned the handsome young man into a goat. The young man protested and told the Devil that changing him into a goat was not part of the deal. The Devil corrected him and reminded the young man that all he wished for was to be around the beautiful young woman for the rest of his life. He told the young man that he did indeed follow through on his end of the bargain: He granted him his wish by turning him into a goat and if he joined the woman’s goat herd on her family’s hacienda he could spend all his waking days on earth in the presence of the beautiful lady. In a puff of smoke, the Devil disappeared and left the angry young man standing there, part goat and part human. To this day, according to the legend, the despondent young man, now called the Huay Chivo, runs around in the darkness, killing small animals in fits of rage because he was tricked into living the rest of his life as a beast by the Devil himself.
Legends usually have their origins in truth. Perhaps the ancient Maya stories of the evil sorcerer or the legend of the unworthy young man making a pact with the Devil were created to explain an unknown creature that has yet to be described by science. Without any physical evidence we are left with eyewitness accounts from frightened individuals, secondhand stories passed down through the generations, and unexplained attacks on animals. With general interest in studying cryptids a growing field of endeavor, perhaps the mystery of the Huay Chivo will be solved soon.
Reporteros Hoy web site article. “Encuentran cadáver de supuesto huay chivo en Yucatán.” 4 Sep. 2015.
Reporteros Hoy web site article. “Asegura que vio al Huay Chivo,” 27 Apr. 2013.