TAPIR, a member of a family (Tapiridce) of hoofed mammals, allied to the horses and rhinoceroses and chiefly distinguished by the fact that the nose is prolonged to form a short proboscis or trunk and the front feet have each four toes, the hind feet possessing three toes only. The little toes of the front feet are un symmetrical and do not touch the ground, while all the toes are "hoofed." They are adapted to live in swamps and rarely leave the dense forests covering such wet places. The tapirs possess a very wide distribution and inhabit both the Old and the New World. The best known species is the South American tapir (T. americantss), which inhabits tropical America and is chiefly found living on the banks of rivers, in which it swims and dives with great ease. It is chiefly a nocturnal animal, feeding on roots, fruits and leaves. The adult is colored brown, the young being variegated with lighter spots and stripes on a darker ground. The hair is short and thick, but the neck possesses a short black mane. The average length is from four to six feet. A second species of South American tapir is the T. villosus, which is distinguished chiefly by the greater length of its hair, due to the fact that it inhabits elevated foot-hills of the Andes, where the climate is cold.
The only other distinct species is the Ma layan tapir (T. Ma/ayanus or Indicus), found in Malacca and Sumatra and known by the white color of the hinder part of its body, the head and anterior portions being black.
The proboscis is larger in the Malayan species than in the South American forms and the former has no mane. It is usually of larger size than the New World forms and appears to be a shy, retiring animal, inhabiting clumps of brushwood.
The existing tapirs seem to approximate more closely than any other perissodactyls to the primitive (Eocene) type of that group. The family, as at present defined, dates back to the Lower Miocene and its remains are found in the White River beds of that age in the Rocky Mountain region. The earliest are separated as the genus Tapiravus, but typical tapirs soon appear. "It is thus evident," remarks Wood ward, "that during Miocene and Pliocene times these animals ranged over most of the warm and temperate lands of the Northern hemi sphere. Hence is explained the remarkable dis tribution of the existing tapirs, which are con fined to two widely separated areas, namely (1) certain portions of the Indo-Malayan region, and (2) the tropical parts of America. Like the surviving dipnoan fishes they are an illustration of a once dominant race nearly ex terminated, but still struggling for existence yvhere; competition happens to be least severe in their particular case.p