Malaysian Tapir


This depiction of Tapirus indicus (the Malaysian or Asian tapir) is from a set of 27 drawings on 15 sheets that was discovered in 1986 in the National Library of South Africa. The drawings are important for presenting the earliest realistic depictions of the Khoikhoi people, the original inhabitants of the Western Cape. The artist has not been identified. He most likely was a Dutchman, born in the 17th century, who was attached in some capacity to the Dutch East India Company and possibly en route to the Dutch East Indies or on his way back to the Netherlands when he visited the Cape. Evidence suggests that the drawings were made no later than 1713, and possibly a good deal earlier. Most of the drawings have annotations, in Dutch, which were made by another person after 1730. The notation on this drawing reads: “Attap [?]. This animal cries like a hartebeest. This animal is found in the water as well as on land.” The artist would have seen the tapir in Asia.

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Physical Description

1 drawing : grey wash, traces of watercolor on paper ; 10 x 27 centimeters


  • Presented as plate 23 in The Khoikhoi at the Cape of Good Hope: Seventeenth-century drawings in the South African Library / text by Andrew B. Smith, from which this description is adapted. Number 6252 of a set: INIL 6250-6264.

Last updated: February 12, 2016