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Tapirs (extant/living species; Tapirus spp.) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding


  • Opportunistic feeders
    • Browsers (herbs, shrubs, twigs)
    • Grazers (use incisors like horses to bite off grass)
    • Frugivores (actively search for fruit and berries)
  • Eat all parts of ferns, horsetails, palm fruits and hearts, aquatic plants
  • Leaves of tropical trees
  • Bromeliads and their berries


  • Use muscular proboscis when foraging - grasp vegetation, and move items into their mouths
  • Known to consume 34 kg (75 lb) of forage in one night
  • Plants are consumed regardless of thorns or insects
  • In managed care, consume varied diet; a favorite food is bananas
  • Crave salt
  • Hindgut fermenters with an enlarged cecum (like all Perissodactyls)
    • Suited to high-fiber, low-quality diet
    • Long digestive period (4-23 days)
  • Defecate in water

Diverse Diet

Baird's tapirs browsing on leaves

Tapirs feed on types of leaves, grasses, fruits, and berries.

They are also known to take farmers' crops.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Olmos (1999)
Witmer et al. (1999)

SDZWA Library Links