Bertine Milam

Bertine Milam

Modified & Updated: 08 Sep 2023


Tapirs are fascinating creatures that many people may not be familiar with. These unique animals belong to the Tapiridae family and are native to the jungles and forests of Central and South America, as well as Southeast Asia. Tapirs have a distinct appearance, with their large snouts and stocky bodies. They are often referred to as “living fossils” as they have been around for millions of years and have changed very little in terms of their physical characteristics.

In this article, we will uncover 18 interesting facts about tapirs that will surely pique your curiosity. From their diet and habitat to their behaviors and conservation status, you will get a comprehensive understanding of these incredible creatures. So, let’s dive into the world of tapirs and explore the wonders of these lesser-known animals!

Table of Contents

An Ancient Lineage

Tapirs belong to the animal family Tapiridae and can be traced back to the early Eocene period, making them one of the oldest surviving mammal species on Earth.

Size and Appearance

Tapirs come in different sizes, ranging from 6.6 to 8.2 feet (2 to 2.5 meters) in length and weighing between 500 to 800 pounds (227 to 363 kilograms). They have a stout build, short legs, and a distinctive elongated snout.

Unique Nose Flexibility

Their elongated snout, known as a proboscis, is incredibly flexible and serves a variety of purposes. Tapirs can use it to grab leaves and fruits, as well as pluck aquatic plants from water bodies.

Environmental Engineers

Tapirs play a crucial role in their ecosystems by acting as “gardeners.” They consume a wide variety of plants and fruits, then help disperse the seeds across vast distances through their feces.

Solitary Animals

Tapirs are typically solitary creatures, with the exception of mothers caring for their young. They tend to maintain large home ranges to ensure they have ample resources to sustain themselves.

Excellent Swimmers

Tapirs are well adapted to the aquatic environment and are excellent swimmers. They have been spotted diving and traversing rivers and streams with ease.

Ancient Relatives of Horses and Rhinos

Tapirs share a common ancestor with horses and rhinos, belonging to the order Perissodactyla. These mammals are characterized by their odd-toed hoof structure.

Diverse Habitat Range

Tapirs can be found in various habitats, including rainforests, grasslands, and swamps, predominantly in regions of Central and South America, as well as Southeast Asia.

Elusive Nocturnal Creatures

Tapirs are primarily nocturnal, preferring to stay hidden during the day and emerging at night to forage for food. This behavior helps protect them from predators.

Gentle and Non-Aggressive

Tapirs have a reputation for being gentle and non-aggressive. They are known to flee when confronted by threats but can defend themselves with powerful bites and kicks if necessary.

Varied Diet

Tapirs are herbivores with a varied diet. They feed on a wide range of leaves, fruits, twigs, and aquatic vegetation, utilizing their flexible snout to access different food sources.

Communication through Vocalizations

Tapirs communicate with each other through a series of vocalizations, including high-pitched whistles and snorts. These sounds help establish territory and attract potential mates.

Thick, Protective Skin

Tapirs have thick and leathery skin, providing them with protection from insects and minor abrasions. Their unique skin coloration also helps them blend with their surroundings.

Unique Coat Patterns

Each tapir species has distinct coat patterns, including spots, stripes, or a combination of both. This unique camouflage helps them blend into their respective habitats.

Vulnerable to Habitat Loss

Due to deforestation and habitat destruction, tapirs are facing increasing threats in the wild. They are classified as vulnerable or endangered, depending on the species.

Slow Reproduction Rate

Tapirs have a slow reproduction rate, with females only producing one offspring every couple of years. This low reproductive rate contributes to their vulnerability as a species.

Cultural Significance

Tapirs hold cultural significance in various indigenous communities. They are often considered symbols of strength, wisdom, and nature’s balance.

Conservation Efforts

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on tapir conservation efforts. Organizations and wildlife advocates are working towards preserving their habitats and raising awareness about their importance in maintaining biodiversity.

So, there you have it – 18 intriguing facts about tapirs, nature’s gentle giants. These marvelous creatures are not only fascinating but also play a vital role in their ecosystems. Let’s cherish and protect them for generations to come!


Tapirs are truly fascinating creatures, with their unique appearance and interesting characteristics. From their trunk-like nose to their gentle nature, tapirs have captured the attention of many animal enthusiasts. With their important role in the ecosystem and their endangered status, it is crucial that we continue to learn about and protect these incredible animals. So, the next time you come across a tapir fact or see a tapir in the wild, remember just how remarkable they truly are.


Q: Where do tapirs live?

A: Tapirs can be found in various habitats including forests, grasslands, and swamps in Central and South America, as well as Southeast Asia.

Q: What do tapirs eat?

A: Tapirs are herbivores and primarily feed on leaves, fruits, and aquatic plants. They have a variety of dietary preferences depending on their species and habitat.

Q: Are tapirs endangered?

A: Yes, several species of tapirs are listed as endangered or vulnerable due to habitat loss, illegal hunting, and fragmentation of their populations.

Q: How long do tapirs live?

A: Tapirs have a lifespan of around 25 to 30 years in the wild, although some individuals have been known to live longer in captivity.

Q: Are tapirs related to elephants?

A: While tapirs may resemble elephants due to their trunk-like nose, they are not closely related. Tapirs belong to the order Perissodactyla, which also includes horses and rhinoceroses.

Q: Do tapirs have any natural predators?

A: Tapirs have few natural predators in their habitats, but they can be vulnerable to large carnivores such as jaguars, tigers, and crocodiles.

Q: Can tapirs swim?

A: Yes, tapirs are excellent swimmers and often use rivers and streams to cool off and escape from predators.

Q: Do tapirs make any vocalizations?

A: Yes, tapirs produce a variety of vocalizations including whistles, grunts, and high-pitched squeals to communicate with each other.

Q: How many species of tapirs are there?

A: There are four extant species of tapirs: the Brazilian tapir, the Malayan tapir, the Baird’s tapir, and the mountain tapir.

Q: Can tapirs be kept as pets?

A: No, tapirs are wild animals and require specific habitats and care. It is illegal and unethical to keep tapirs as pets.