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Updated on August 15, 2014

The Tapir

The tapir is a strange looking animal, either brown, or black and white, hoofed animal with many similarities to the rhinoceros. Though not as big as the rhino, it is still quite large.

The skin is hairy and very thick, and the tail is short. Of the four living species, Tapirus indicus, the largest, is Malayan. The rest occur (far away) in Central and South America. These are black when adult although the young are striped yellow and white.

Tapirs form the family, Tapiridae, which belongs with the Rhinocerotidae (rhinos) in the suborder Tapiroidea.

All images Public Domain or Used With Permission

The chief external differences with rhinos are the absence of horns, the elongation of the snout into a short proboscis, the long neck, the absence of skin folds, and the presence of at least a sparse covering of hair.

Malayan Tapir

Malayan Tapir
Malayan Tapir


Tapirs live in wet tropical forests, near a good supply of water and spend much of their time swimming, splashing about in the water and wallowing in mud like a rhinoceros.

They are are said to be shy, living alone or in pairs. They are seldom seen, as they usually shelter in the forests by day, coming out at night to feed. They are agile and can run when necessary. Tapirs drink a lot and eat aquatic vegetation as well as leaves, twigs and fruit. The tapir has very keen powers of hearing and scent. When disturbed they rush into the water, being able to swim well, or take cover in dense bush.

Brazilian Tapir

Brazilian Tapir
Brazilian Tapir

Patterned young

In all tapirs breeding takes place at any time of the year. After a gestation period of about 13 months they bear one young or, on the rare occasion, two.

Young tapirs of all species are dark and distinctively patterned with yellow and white longitudinal stripes and spots on the body and legs. A natural camouflage that allows them to blend into the forest while they are still young and vulnerable.

The pattern usually disappears in 6 to 8 months.

Brazilian Tapir

Brazilian Tapir
Brazilian Tapir

Zoo celebrates birth of very rare Tapir

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo - Malayan Tapir

Malayan Tapir
Malayan Tapir
Malayan Tapir
Malayan Tapir
Malayan Tapir
Malayan Tapir

Fellow Lensmaster Julianne Gentile took these photos at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and gave me permission to share them on this lens.

They need our support!

Tapirs are virtually defenceless except for their rather thick skins; undoubtedly their shy nature has preserved them, together with their lack of worthwhile 'trophies'.

Mark 27th of April in your calendar as World Tapir Day and spread the word about these unusual and unique animals.

Rare Tapir Stuff - It's hard to find Tapir merchandise!

Ever seen one? Where? How much do you love 'em?

Profess your Tapirus love here!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      awwwwwwwwwwwwtapirs are soooo cute;]

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 5 years ago from Western Mass

      world tapir day, huh? i guess everyone deserves a day of recognition. :)

    • juliannegentile profile image

      Julianne Gentile 5 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, US

      I'm a big fan of the tapir. I think they are adorable. Thanks for creating this lens.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Once again, Glen, you've taught me something totally new. Thank you. How beautiful the baby, with its white markings, and how sad it must be born in captivity. Would love to know what stimulated your interest in this gentle-appearing animal.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      They are beautiful and I guess not much showcased about! Thanks for the highlight. :)

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image

      ctavias0ffering1 8 years ago

      Very nice lens, tapirs are the funniest creatures 5* and a sprinkling of Angel Dust

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Nice lens Glen. Great to see a lens in the Animals and Nature category that is actually about an animal. Blessings to you.