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Now that's one funky animal!

(San Diego Zoo Photo)

What is that thing? A hog? An anteater? A hippo? Nope, it’s a tapir. According to, tapirs are large mammals that look like wild hogs with anteater snouts. In reality, tapirs are most closely related to horses and rhinos. The word "tapir" comes from an indigenous Brazilian language and means "thick," referring to the animal's hide. "Tapir" can be pronounced at least two ways: It can rhyme either with "paper" or with "appear."

Tapirs are about the size of a donkey. They have round bodies, short legs and stubby tails, sort of like a hippo. Their eyes and ears are small. They have four toes on each front foot and three toes on each back foot, according to the San Diego Zoo. Their most distinctive feature is their snout, which is flexible like an elephant's trunk. However, the tapir’s trunk is actually its upper lip and nose and can grab things with their trunks, somewhat like an elephant. They use them to pluck leaves and fruit out of trees. When threatened, tapirs will submerge themselves in a river and use their snouts like a snorkel.

Most tapirs live in South America, from southern Mexico to Venezuela, Brazil and Paraguay. Want to see one in action? Go here:


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