Tapirs. Yes. Tapirs are very cute. They're this weird mix between a rhino and a horse. They only stand 1 meter tall, and are about 2 meters long. Read more about tapirs at Wikipedia.
Really, all you need to know is that tapirs are ridiculously cute and sadly an endangered species because we keep cutting down forests where they live. Their babies are brown with white stripes AND spots
Anyways. I have tapirs in the new novel I'm working on for NaNo '09. I was looking at my map and re-drawing it and working out the geography. I've decided to set it in a tropical climate, with mossy forests and canopy forests and terraced rice fields and giant paddy fields with buffalo, and rivers with crocodiles.
I'm very excited, and the research is amazing fun. Did you know the collective noun for crocodiles is "a bask of crocodiles"?
The tapirs I'm most familiar with are, obviously, the Malayan tapir, very distinctive because it has a white saddleback and everything else is black. Most other tapirs are brown. Mountain tapir have wooly hides! They live in the Andes, though, so that makes sense. Might they be related to the wooly mammoth somehow?!
At the same time, I also researched geography and learned about different rock formations (while trying to come up with a good name for a very high mountain range which blocks percipitation to the south-western part of the continent hence there's a big honking desert there. Look at that
. Look at how darn cute that snout is.
Tapirs have very short hair, you know. I wonder if I'll be allergic to them.
When tapirs sniff the air, they exhibit the flehmen response, meaning their mouth muscles get pulled back to bare their teeth. The result is that they look fucking pissed off
! But they're actually shy and retiring creatures, preferring to duck under cover. However, if you DO piss them off, they will bite. Like most herbivores, I imagine.
In the world I'm building, there's kinda like a tradition or religion which revolves around.... confectionary. Yes. Confectionary is magic in this world! Or rather, most people manifest their magic through confectionary. Except for my protagonist, poor thing. She's the apprentice to the greatest chocolate witch (artisan) in the land and just can't get a hang of things. It's okay though.
No, she will not get a tapir companion. That's just too silly. She WILL however, ride tapirs! Because tapirs are sacred magical creatures in this world.
Speaking of tapis being sacred magical creatures, Japanophiles! Baku are mythical dream-eating creatures which sorta kinda look like tapir! Kinda, anyway. Old descriptions of it are weirder and involve "an elephant’s trunk, rhinoceros eyes, an ox tail, and tiger paws", but these days baku are depicted as tapir!
Did I mention that above this continent floats a Cotton Candy Cloud Kingdom? Oh yeah.
And did I mention tapirs are made of awesome cute? Oh yeah.