Many countries have legends and fables stories about them, but vampire bats have only relatively recently become a key part of the vampire legends.
And that's because they were only discovered by the old World in the sixteenth century by explorers on the South American continent.
Vampire bats are not endemic to Europe, but bats and owls have long been featured in dark legends simply because you see them at night. It was a short step to include their blood sucking cousins into vampire lore.
There are three species of vampire bats- their bite is usually not harmful to humans which is just as well as they have been known to feed on both humans and livestock and will leave a 2-prong bite mark on their victim's skin. So you can understand how they got imaginations racing in the Olden Days!
Dracula transforms into a bat more than once in Bram Stoker's 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula, and vampire bats make several appearances in the book. You could say thay have the Drac Stamp of Approval.
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3 Types of Vampire Bat
Vampire bats feed on blood- look at the fella to the left, ugly little blighter isn't he?
There are 3 species: the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), the hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi). All are native to the Americas- you'll find them in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.
Interestingly, in Mexican folklore, there are vampires called Chortis which are friendly, but vicious vampires that live in Mexico and Guatemala. They are said to be wild men who live in the forests, in caves and in jungles and are large and hairy (caveman vampires, perhaps inspired by the hairy legged vampire bat?). They wear their feet backwards so that they point to where they have been.
Watch out for their steel claws which can behead a man in an instant (for a quick but messy feed). Although some Mexicans believe them to be good natured guardians of the jungle, cross one at your peril, as they become savage when angry. Chorti prefer to feed on males. Sorry boys, but you need to get down to some serious vampire ass kicking otherwise there could be trouble.
The Old World
Back in the "Old World", ie Europe, it was during the dark Middle Ages that vampire myths really spread. A baby born with teeth or an extra nipple were thought to be a vampire- anything out of the ordinary after birth was seen as a bad omen and something to fear. Combine this with a fear of the dead and you had fertile ground for these kinds of fables to spring up. Vampire bats with their nocturnal blood sucking feeding habits slotted right in there in the 16th century!
How they suck blood unnoticed for up to 30 minutes. Ewwwwww!
Vampire bats feed only when it is dark. Like their fruit-eating cousins, they send out low-energy sound pulses and the common vampire bat likes to feed on warm blooded mammals (including unlucky humans). The hairy-legged vampire bat and white-winged vampire bat also feed on the blood of birds.
Typically dinner will involve a sleeping mammal- the bat will find a nice warm spot on the skin to bite, make a small cut with their teeth and lap up blood from the wound. They even have shaving skills- on furry mammals they will shave away the hairy stuff using their canine and cheek teeth before switching to sharp upper incisors to puncture through the skin and feast on the unlucky victim.
The saliva from a vampire bat has been designed to prolong bleeding: anticoagulants will stop the blood from clotting too quickly.
In short, they have an impressive tool box that enable them to feed away at leisure!