Grasslands are areas where grass is naturally the most abundant form of vegetation. They are found in the Americans, Asia and Africa, and make up about a quarter of Earth's available land. The limited rainfall of between 10 and 30 inches per year prevents grasslands from becoming either forests or deserts. The lack of trees and heavy bush make grasslands the ideal environment for large herds of grazing mammals.
The elevated open grasslands of southern Africa are known as "veldt." Despite a seemingly limited food supply, they are home to three of the largest animals on the planet. Rhinoceroses weigh up to 5,000 pounds and are notoriously bad-tempered and short-sighted. African elephants weigh up to 13,000 pounds and differ from their Asian cousins in having two "fingers" at the base of their trunks. Giraffes grow up to 18 feet tall, their height making it easier to stand up to sleep. Other animals on the veldt include wildebeest, lions and zebra.
The grasslands of Asia are known as "steppe." Animals that live there include the corsac fox, a long-legged, reddish gray fox that stands as tall as an average-sized dog. The Northern lynx is a rare and powerful cat with short legs and a long tail. It helps keep the steppe rodent population under control. Saker falcons also hunt for small mammals such as the Mongolian gerbil, which uses its strong legs to escape predators by jumping or burrowing.
The grasslands of the North American interior are known as the "prairies." The bison, sometimes mistakenly referred to as the American buffalo, is the heaviest land animal found roaming these substantial grasslands. It stands at about 6 feet tall and weighs up to 2,000 pounds. The fastest mammal on the prairies is the pronghorn, which can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. Cougars live in North American grasslands but have become an endangered species through over-hunting and loss of habitat. More commonly seen animals include coyotes, gray wolves and foxes.
The South American grasslands are known as the "Pampas." These vast plains are home to a number of distinctive animals such as the anteater, with its elongated nose and long tail, and the tapir, a small hoofed animal with a long trunk-like nose. The Pampas are also home to large flightless birds called rhea, and llamas, which are sturdy woolly mammals related to camels. Endangered species of the Pampas include jaguars, pumas and the Pampas deer.