Baird's tapir on a grass field


20 million years and counting
giant panda


Map highlighting Central America
Central America
Endangered Status

Some Endangered


6 to 8 feet
length of adult tapir
The average bed is 6.25 feet long.
Tapir compared to a bed
leaves, fruit
plant eater
rainforest, swamps
Rainforest habitat leaves


Baird's tapir

Ancient animals

They may look odd at first, but tapirs have adaptations that have helped them survive on Earth for a very long time. They are primitive animals that have remained unchanged for millions of years. Fossils of tapir ancestors have been found on every continent except Antarctica. Present-day tapirs, depending on species, can be found in Mexico, Central America, South America, and Asia.

Tapir whistle
Baird's tapir using snout to hold and eat leaves off a small branch

Not a pig

People often think a tapir is a kind of pig or anteater, but it is actually most closely related to horses and rhinos. Its nose and upper lip are combined into a flexible snout that the animal uses to reach and pull food into its mouth. A tapir is both a browser and a grazer! It uses its snout to pluck leaves from tree branches or to feel around in the underbrush for fallen fruit to eat.

Baby Malayan tapir swimming up to its chin in water

Water wise

Tapirs are nocturnal animals that like to spend a lot of time in the water. They can stay under the water for several minutes. In fact, when frightened, tapirs hide in the water and breathe with their snout poked above the surface like a snorkel!