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(tapirs), a family of mammals of the order Perissodactyla. Although tapirs are rather clumsy-looking, with a massive body and short legs, they are actually very agile. The forefeet have four toes, and the hind feet have three; the middle toe is the longest. The ends of the toes are encased by hooves. The snout has a short proboscis, formed by the upper lip. The ears and tail are short. The thick skin is covered with short hairs. The coloration of most adult tapirs is dark brown; the young are spotted. The body length of the adult varies from 180 to 250 cm, and the height at the shoulders, from 75 to 120 cm; the weight ranges between 200 and 300 kg.
The family Tapiridae comprises five species, which are distributed in Central and South America and in Southeast Asia. The Asiatic, or Malayan, tapir (Tapirus indicus) is larger than the American species and has shorter hairs and a large white marking on the back that extends down the sides. It is found on the island of Sumatra, on the Malay Peninsula, and in Thailand and Burma.
Tapirs inhabit humid, marshy forests with stagnant bodies of water. They are good swimmers. One species, the mountain, or woolly, tapir (T. roulini, or T. pinchaque), which is the smallest representative of the family, is found in the Andes at elevations of up to 4,000 m. Tapirs are primarily solitary animals, leading a crepuscular and nocturnal mode of existence. They feed mainly on the leaves of trees and shrubs and on various grasses. The female gives birth to a single offspring after a gestation of about 400 days. Tapirs are hunted by the local inhabitants for their meat and hide. They are easily domesticated. The Asiatic tapir is threatened with extinction.
REFERENCESZhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.
Mammals of the World, vol. 2. Baltimore, Md., 1964.
I. I. SOKOLOV