In places that have more rain than deserts, but not enough for many trees, grasslands flourish. Grasslands are home to vast numbers of animals. Grasslands fire comes from some lightning, and some by people who want to clear away dead growth. Grassland trees often have flat bottoms, where animals have grazed.

Lions on the prowl 

Grasslands attract lots of grass-eating animals, which attract predators, including some of the most dangerous land animals in the world: lions.

Where in the world? 

Grasslands cover huge of land. They are given different names, depending on where they are.

Browsing on grass

Zebra roam the African savanna, spending much of their days grazing in order to get enough of the nutrients they need.

I spot some trees!

If a grassland is dotted with trees, it's called a savanna. There are huge savannas in hot parts of the world.

Browsing on trees 

Giraffes live on the African savanna, in areas where they can nibble on acacia and wild apricot trees. Giraffes may look alike, but their patterned coat varies depending on where they are from.

Grassland hazards

Severe weather changes and outbreaks of fire mean life in a grassland habitat can be tough.

  • Sun: Some grasslands are hot, sunny, and every day for much of the year.
  • Fire is a natural and important part of grassland life.
  • Wind sweeps across grasslands, as there are no trees to break its flow.
  • Tornados are a common occurrence on North American prairies.

A Sea of Grass

Most plants grow from the top, but the grass grows from the bottom. This means it can grow back if it's eaten, or if it is flattened by being trampled.

Grass seed

Grass plants use the wind to spread their pollen (the fine dust that passes from male flowers to female flowers) and their seeds. In summer, clouds of grass pollen give some people hay fever.

The cycle of life

Tropical grasslands have wet and dry seasons. In the dry season, the grass turns straw-colored and dies. With the rainy season, it springs back to life. The grass is resistant to being trampled by hooves.

The grass we eat

Grass doesn't just provide food for animals, it provides food for us. In fact, most people's main food comes from grasses.

  • Sugar is produced from sugar cane, a giant tropical grass.
  • Maize is used for all sorts of food products, including tortillas.
  • Wheat is used for flour to make bread and cakes, and for pasta.
  • Rice is a major food in Asia and is eaten around the world.
  • Rye is mixed with wheat to make a heavy flour that is used for bread.

Grass attack

Walkthrough grass and you may find seeds clinging to your clothes. Some seeds cling on with tiny hooks that work like Velcro.

Spring flowers 

While tropical grasslands burst into life in the rainy season, northern grasslands burst into life in the spring. The fields often contain colorful flowers.

Baobab trees

In Africa, the baobab tree survives the blistering heat of the dry season by swelling and storing water in its trunk. Some of the Baobab trees in Africa growing there are for 3000 years.

Grazers and Browsers

Grasslands are home to the largest herds, the biggest and fastest land animals, and the biggest birds on Earth.


Huge herds of animals graze on grass. The grass is hard to digest, so grazers have bacteria in their guts that help with digestion.

That one's white!

How do you tell the difference between white and black rhinoceros? White rhinos are grazers: they have wide, flat lips for nibbling grass.

Only the best

Wildebeest prefer young, tender grass. They have a special stomach where food, stays for a while before being brought back to the mouth for a second chew. Wildebeest are a type of antelope.

Big birds

Grasslands are home to the biggest birds in the world: ostriches in Africa, emus in Australia, and rheas in South America. All are flightless birds. The ostrich is the biggest of all.

  • Ostriches can grow to 2.8m (9¼ ft)
  • Emus can grow to 1.9 m (6¼ ft)
  • Rheas can grow to 1.5 m (5 ft)

Woven home

The grass isn't just useful as food, it can also be used as a building material. The weaver bird weaves strands of grass and torn leaves into a fabulous nest. Weaver bird's nest has a trumpet shaped entrance. 


Animals that eat bushes and trees are called browsers. The gerenuk is a browser, but one that can stand on its hind legs.

This one's black!

Black rhinos are browsers; they have pointy lips for pulling leaves from bushes. Black rhinos are also known as hook-lipped rhinos.

What a pushover? 

Elephants are also browsers. With their long trunks, they can reach higher than giraffes. They will often push a tree over if it's not too big.

A need for speed

There aren't many places to hide on grasslands, so animals rely on speed and stamina to escape.

  • Springboks look as if they are bouncing, as they spring away from predators
  • Pronghorns are fast. They can run at 65 kph (40 mph) and keep going for a while
  • Zebra can also reach 65 kph (40 mph), and will outrun most predators
  • Wildebeest are large, but they can reach speeds of 80 kph (50 mph) if needed
  • Thomson's gazelle, like the springbok, will "bounce" in flight
  • Ostriches can reach 70 kph (45 mph), and keep going for about 30 minutes

Hunters and scavengers 

With so many plant-eating animals around, grasslands are a magnet to predators. Many hunt, but others prefer to scavenge: they pick over dead and rotting animals.

Stashing the prey

Predators will steal from each other if they can. To prevent this from happening, the leopard will drag its kill up into a tree. It can then eat undisturbed.

On the brink

The rarest mammal in North America is the black-footed ferret, which hunts prairie dogs by chasing them through their burrows. Sadly, these ferrets are almost extinct.


Lions are Africa's top grassland predators. By working together, they can hunt animals as big as buffalos and giraffes.


The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world and can sprint at 100 kph (60 mph) to chase prey. 

Bone breaker 

Hyenas will eat up to one-third of their body weight at one meal! Their powerful jaws easily crush bone, and their stomachs can digest bone and hide, so little is left when they have finished eating. Hyenas are closely related to cats. 

Playing possum 

Surely no predator could eat this rotting, stinking, dead opossum. Wrong it's pretending to be dead, and it's made a foul smell to complete the impression.

The Virginia opossum may lie still for up to six hours until it feels safe again. 


Vultures are scavengers, and they are not fussy about the freshness of the meat they find. A vulture's bald head stays clean when meat is picked off a carcass. 

Going underground 

There are different animals that come from different continents, so would never usually meet. However, some of them share one thing in common: they all use burrows.

Born to burrow

In Australia, a single wombat can dig a tunnel system with a total length of about 20 m (65 ft). It will emerge at night to nibble on grasses and roots.

Now you see it 

Africa's aardvark is an amazingly quick digger. It can disappear into the ground in just five minutes.

A growing home 

Rabbits can devastate large areas of farmland, not only by eating but also by digging extensive burrows. Rabbits need to spend most of their time feeding, but they always stay close to their burrows. 

Let's build a city

Black-tailed American prairie dogs dig long tunnels. Neighbors build next door, and the collection of tunnels soon becomes a "city".

Living with friends

In Africa, the banded mongoose leaves its hole to seek out termites or perhaps a tasty bird's egg. It lives in communities of 15-20 individuals. The branded mongoose can dig, but it often moves into old terminate nests instead. 


The animals that eat the most grass in grasslands are not the big herbivores but the tiny insects.

  • Ants often remove seeds. These tiny creatures are found all over the world.
  • Termites like these cut-up plant matter and carry it back to their nests.
  • Crickets are predators, but they also eat grass, jumping from stem to stem.
  • Grasshoppers are vegetarian. Like crickets. they have large hind limbs
  • Caterpillars need to eat and eat and eat. Many feeds on particular plants.

It's my hole now

Old prairie dog holes may be taken over by small burrowing owls. They often stand outside and wait for a meal to walk past.

Toothy grin

To keep dirt out of their mouths while they dig, pocket gophers can close their lips behind their front teeth. Their cheeks act like shopping bags, to store food.

Burrowing snake 

The American pine snake's pointed snout helps it to push its way through soft earth, but given the chance, it will take over another animal's burrow.

Terminate Tower 

Grasslands are home to billions of termites. Individuals gather together in huge colonies to build incredible nests.


A king and queen start the towers. But nobody knows how the workers work out what to do. 

A look inside

A termite mound is full of tunnels and chambers. Like the rooms in a house, each has a particular purpose.

Cooling chimneys

Some termites build chimneys into their towers. It's a built-in air-conditioning system. Warm air rises through the chimneys, pulling cool air in at the bottom.

In-ground level, 

  • Edible fungi are grown in the fungus gardens.
  • Young termites are reared. in nurseries that are at the heart of the nest.
  • The inner chamber walls are made of soft, woody materials stuck together with termite droppings.
  • The king and queen live in the royal chamber. Workers bring food to them.

What's in the cellar? 

Like many cellars, a termite's cellar is damp, but this dampness is caused by moisture as the termites respire. It's a source of cool air for the whole nest.

Giant termite mound, 

A termite tower can take a minimum of ten years to build. 

Shape variation

Termites build the biggest structures, relative to the size, of any land-living creature. There are different shapes.


Anteaters love to eat termites. They collect as many as possible before the soldiers make their attack.

Who lives there?

A termite mound has four main residents: the soldiers, the workers, the queen, and the king. The king remains with the queen for life. 


Some soldiers use jaws to bite attackers, others squirt a sticky glue. One kind of termite even has soldiers that block entrances by exploding. These soldiers can squirt a sticky fluid through a nozzle-shaped head. 


A mound's chief citizens are its workers. They build the mound a mouthful at a time, using mud, chewed plants, and their poo.

Keep on laying

A termite queen lives for up to 50 years, and, fully grown, is as big as your little finger. She depends on the workers. Her job is to lay eggs up to 36,000 a day. An African queen termite produce about 650 million eggs in her lifetime. 

Life in a Meadow 

In summer, a healthy grass meadow is like a jungle in miniature. It is packed with different plants and animals.

Hidden away 

A meadow may be inhabited by moles almost blind creatures that remain below the ground.

Under the surface

Moles are capable miners, tunneling long passages through the soil and producing tell-tale mounds of earth.

Watch out!

Crab spiders are powerful enough to catch bees and butterflies. They hide among the flowers, pouncing when prey comes close.

Weeds and wildflowers

  • Wildflowers are pretty, but some spread so rapidly they can be troublesome to farmers.
  • Ragwort is immensely poisonous to horses, ponies, donkeys, and cattle.
  • Thistle fruits have parachutes. The seeds may be carried far and wide.
  • Daisies hug the ground and do well in short grass. such as on a lawn.
  • Cowslip is found in clearings and at the edge of woodland as well as in meadows.
  • Musk mallow produces pretty flowers from June to September.
  • Lady's bedstraw produces tiny, star-shaped flowers.
  • Field scabious can produce some 2,000 seeds per plant.
  • Clover is useful to farmers as it helps fertilize the soil. It is part of the pea family.
  • Dandelion heads are full of tiny petals, each of which turns into a seed.
  • Wood cranesbill is a woodland flower but grows in hay meadows.
  • Buttercup flowers produce 30 seeds, so a large plant may have 22,000 seeds.

From flower to seed 

Dandelions are frequently seen in meadows, as they have a way of spreading their seeds that is incredibly successful. Each seed has a parachute, to carry it far away.

First, the flower is ready to be pollinated by an insect.

second, The petals have died and the parachutes are forming.

Third, a breeze lifts the parachutes. They may travel far. 

Tiny monkeys

Harvest mice climb through the stems as ably as monkeys climb through trees. They build tennis ball-sized nests. A harvest mouse weighs no more than a teaspoonful of sugar. 

Slow but steady

The slow worm is not actually a worm, it's a type of lizard! But it has no legs. This one is hunting for a tasty worm or a snail. There are many different types of snails and a meadow is a good place to find a selection. A slow worm can live more than 50 years. 

At the water hole 

During the dry season in the savanna, the only reliable place to find water is at a water hole. It can be a busy place.

That's better!

When a warthog takes a bath, it ends up dirtier than ever. The mud helps it to cool down and may help get rid of fleas and other nasty insects that infect the animal's skin.

Meet my companion 

Large animals often appear at a water hole with accompanying oxpeckers. These birds help the animal keep insects at bay, picking off ticks and leeches. As well as insect control, axpeckers clean up any wounds the host animal may have.


Birds are often seen wading in waterholes, looking for fish and frogs. There are many different types, and a few are shown here.

  • Yellow-billed storks stir the water with a foot to disturb fish and frogs.
  • Crowned cranes are the only cranes able to perch in trees.
  • Saddle-billed storks are the largest storks, with a wingspan of 2.7 m (9 ft).
  • Wattled cranes surround their large nests with moat-like water channels.

A never-ending thirst

Animals visit a water hole frequently, especially elephants. Elephants have to drink about 200 litres (53 gallons) a day. A water hole is a cool place. Water holes are busy place because in dry season, a water hole may provide the only water for miles around. 

Stuck in the mud

Some water holes dry up in the dry season. The African lungfish buries itself in a sticky bag of slime and hibernates until the rains come back.

Bubble blower

Froghopper nymphs create damp bubbles of sticky fluid to stop themselves from drying out. The bubble also protects the nymphs from being eaten.

Do you know? 

Herbivores animals will eat only plants. The animal name that means earth pig in Afrikaans is Aardvark: "aarde" means "earth" and "vark" means "pig".

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