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Updated on January 17, 2010
A Tapir at Taronga Zoo. Sydney, Australia.
A Tapir at Taronga Zoo. Sydney, Australia.

Stoutly build, hoofed mammal of South America and Malaysia. Tapirs have a rounded body covered with bristly hair like that of a pig, about the size of donkeys, with shorter legs and heavier bodies. They have a long snout which extends into a short, flexible trunk to sniff the ground for food.

Their legs are short, and they have four toes on the front feet and three toes on the hind feet. Their weight is borne on the third toe. The tapir's snout and upper lip are extended into a short flexible trunk. The largest tapirs stand 4 feet (120 cm) tall at the shoulder and are 6 feet (180 cm) long.

They live in forested or swampy areas around rivers and lakes. Comparatively slow-moving on land, they swim and dive, well and always stay near water as a means of escape.

They spend much of their time in water, feeding on aquatic plants as well as low-growing forest vegetation. such as tree leaves, which they pluck with their trunk. The female, called a cow, usually bears a single calf nine months after mating. If a tapir is caught when young, it can be tamed. Tapirs live for about 12 years.

Four species of tapirs exist today. The South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris} is brownish black and has a crest on the head and neck. The mountain tapir (T. raulini) is black. It lives at elevations up to 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) in Ecuador and Colombia. The Central American tapir (T. bairdii), ranges from Mexico to Panama. The Malay tapir (T. indicws) is two-colored. The front part of the body, the under-parts, and the legs are brownish black. The rest of the body is whitish. It lives in Southeast Asia.

Related to rhinoceroses and horses, tapirs are normally slow-moving and deliberate but can run swiftly to escape danger.

Tapirs are classified as order Perissodactyla, family Tapiridae, genus Tapirus.

An idea of the size of the Tapir

An idea of the cuteness of the Tapir


  • Library of Essential Knowledge, Volume 2, Readers Digest, 1980. Page 378.
  • Merit Students Encyclopedia, Volume 18, P.F. Collier Inc, 1979. Page 13.


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      Animal Lover & Expert 6 years ago

      Hmmm.Tapir isn't an endangered spieces.Why would everyone think like that?Its us!We humans are the one who destroys the animals!Do u agree?

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 9 years ago from London UK

      Strange but Beautiful creatures..

    • wellness5 profile image

      wellness5 9 years ago from Fondi, Italy

      We regularly watch Tapirs here on Italian TV show - tapir statuettes are given to people who are judged to have made a mess or got egg on their faces for some reason !

    • Hazok profile image

      Hazok 9 years ago from Malaysia


    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 9 years ago from India

      very good informative Page you have created..keep it up..