Brazilian Tapir
Tapirus terrestris

CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Perissodactyla
FAMILY: Tapiridae


  • Second largest of the American Species.
  • Weight 500 lbs.
  • Length of head and body 71 - 98 inches
  • Height to shoulder 29 - 47 inches

South America from Columbia and Venezuela south to Paraguay and Brazil

Wooded, grassy habitats; jungles; often swampy and always close to water source such as streams or lakes

Wild - Omnivorous; aquatic or low-growing forest vegetation and various fallen fruits; invertebrates as well as small mammals and birds

Zoo - Alfalfa, vegetables and fruit such as carrots, apples, potatoes, lettuce; grains


  • Characterized by heavy bodies supported by stout legs; front feet have four toes, back feet only three toes. Small hoof. Head extends into a short, fleshy trunk which is actually a prolonged nose and upper lip.
  • Carries a well-marked crest rising between the ears and extending onto the neck. This emphasizes the concave profile of the head.
  • Dark brown to reddish above, paler below, short and bristly; low narrow mane.


  • Swims well and will take freely to water when pressed by enemies. Bathing not only cools the animal, but also protects it from biting insects and from other parasites of the skin. Short mane, a crest of stiff hairs, protects nape from the jaguar's sharp teeth. Though skin is covered with sparse hair.
  • Mainly nocturnal; sleeps much of the day; however can quickly become alert when disturbed.
  • Apart from mothers with children, tapirs are usually solitary.
  • Usually described as harmless, defenseless, and slow moving, tapirs can become serious antagonists when aroused, using their teeth with a devastating effect and exhibiting surprise speed and agility.
  • Skilled climbers; can also squeeze through small spaces. Ears protrude -- have good hearing; sense of smell highly developed; small, deep set eyes are protected from brush and thorns; not particularly acute vision.
  • Communicate with shrill, whistling sound and scent mark with urine.
  • Mobile proboscis, slightly swollen at tip, allows tapir to sniff its way through foliage and acts as sensitive finger with which it can reach leaves, shoots, etc.
  • Observation shows that the odd-toes ungulates which fed primarily on leaves have the largest and most moveable upper lips.

About 30 year life span
Related to horses and rhinos
Oldest living perissodactyle

Single birth -- any season. Gestation period is 13 months or 400 days. Young of all tapirs are handsomely marked with white or yellowish stripes and spots, which give way to adult coloration which is usually complete by six months. Attain sexual maturity at 3 - 4 years. Usually remain with mother 10 - 11 months. (Female tapir has single pair of mammae located in region of groin.)

Mainly jaguars; sometimes caiman attack young in water

CITES App. I; threatened: Suffer from loss of habitat and even though these giants are considered fatty and not very tasty, they are hunted every where in their habitat.

"World of Wildlife: Animals of South America," Orbis Publishing, London
"Grzimek's Animal Encyclopedia," Vol. 13, Mammals IV
"Management of Wild Mammals in Captivity," Lee S. Crandall