The primary distinction between a prairie and a savanna is the climate. Savannas, or tropical grasslands, cover almost half of the African continent and prefer warm or hot climates. Prairies, or temperate grasslands, prefer temperatures that vary from summer to winter. Prairies need less rainfall than savannas.
Prairies and savannas are both grasslands. A grassland is a region that is dominated by plant and grass vegetation rather than forests. Grasslands proliferated after the end of the last ice age as warmer and drier climates prevailed worldwide. Savannas are distinct in their precipitation needs. For a grassland to be a savanna, the rainfall must be concentrated into six to eight months of the year. Thus, regions in which savannas are found have both a dry and a rainy season with pretty stable temperatures year round.
Wildlife on savannas include giraffes, buffalo, mice, zebras and snakes. Prairies are characterized has having hot summers and cold winters. Rainfall falls steadily year round, with the majority falling in the early summer and late fall. The amount of rainfall determines the type and level of vegetation in a prairie. Wildlife typical to prairies includes lions, wild horses, gazelles, wolves and prairie dogs.