The first tapirids appeared in the Eocene epoch, and by the Oligocene they looked similar to the present-day species. For much of their history, tapirs were spread across the Northern Hemisphere. The northern species became extinct as recently as 10,000 years ago.
Tapirs are about 2 m / 7 ft long and about 1 meter / 3 ft high. They weigh between 150 - 300 kg / 330 - 700 lb. They have a rounded body and very short stubby tails. Tapirs have hoofed toes, with four toes on the front feet and three toes on the hind feet. The Tapir's upper lip and nose have formed a short trunk, and they have a long tongue.
Tapirs have a short fur, with colors that are reddish-brown to grey to nearly black. Exceptions are the Mountain Tapir and the Asian Tapir. The Mountain Tapir has longer wooly fur. The Asian Tapir has a black front part and legs, and a white middle part and back. All baby tapirs have brown fur, with lighter stripes and dots for camouflage.
Tapirs live alone. After a pregnancy of about 13 months, the female gives birth to a single baby. After half a year the baby starts to lose the baby-coloring of its fur. When the young tapir is one year old it looks like an adult tapir, and it leaves its mother. Tapirs become mature when they are 4 years old. Tapirs can become 25 – 30 years old.