Tapir, a hoofed mammal found in Central and South America, southern Mexico, and southeastern Asia. Tapirs range from 30 to 40 inches (75 cm to 1 m) in height and weigh about 500 to 650 pounds (225 to 295 kg). The animal has oval, erect ears; a short, thick tail; and a long, narrow snout with an elongated upper lip. Its body is covered with short, bristly hair. Tapirs hide in wooded or grassy areas near streams and emerge at night to eat leaves, vegetables, fruit, and other plant matter.

TapirsTapirs resemble pigs but are related to the horse and rhinoceros.

There are four species of tapirs. The Malayan tapir is distinguished by its coloration; the front half and the back legs are black, while the rear half above the legs is silvery white. The Brazilian tapir, mountain tapir, and Baird's tapir are dark brown to reddish above and paler below. The young are dark brown with yellow and white horizontal stripes interspersed with yellow and white spots.

Tapirs live alone or in pairs and are good swimmers, divers, and runners. They are shy and mild-tempered but can defend themselves by biting. Due to loss of habitat, tapirs are now endangered.

What Makes a Tapir So Odd?

A tapir (TAY puhr) is a very unusual animal. It looks a lot like a pig. But it’s really related to the horse, the zebra, and the rhino. But that’s not the only reason a tapir is so unusual. Each of a tapir’s front hoofs encases four toes—an even number. But encased in each back hoof are three toes.

Tapirs live in tropical forests. They use their piglike snouts to sniff around for food. Tapirs eat twigs, tree leaves, shrubs, and fruit.

A tapir is a good swimmer and diver. It loves to be in water. Water is also a good place for the tapir to hide from enemies, such as tigers and leopards. The tapir can stay underwater for a long time.

Tapirs make up the family Tapiridae. The Malayan tapir is Tapirus indicus; Brazilian, T. terrestris; mountain, T. pinchaque; Baird's, T. bairdii.