The 14 Terrain Types Around The World And The Animals That Live There

Are you curious about the different types of terrain found around the world and the unique animals that call these landscapes home? From the towering peaks of mountains to the vast expanses of deserts, each terrain presents its own challenges and opportunities for life to thrive.

However, understanding these terrains and the creatures that inhabit them can sometimes be overwhelming due to the sheer diversity and complexity of our planet’s ecosystems.

In this guide, we will explore 14 different types of terrain, including canyons, deserts, forests, glaciers, hills, marshes, mountains, oases, rivers, swamps, tundras, and valleys.

For each terrain, we will look into the characteristics that define it, the types of animals that live there, and the unique adaptations these animals have developed to survive in their environment.


A canyon, also known as a gorge, is a deep and wide break between cliffs. They are created by large bodies of water, which once eroded the hills or mountains that now stand tall above them.

Canyons can easily be compared to valleys, however, these gorges are deeper and narrower than their counterparts. Where valleys can house entire towns or cities, canyons can maybe fit a truck or two.

Some canyons still contain a river at the bottom of their base, while others are dried up.

Arguably the most famous canyon in the world is the Grand Canyon, but what kind of animals live in that dry and rocky landscape?

Animals That Live In Canyons

In the Grand Canyon, you are most likely to find insects, reptiles, and birds. Surprisingly, among the dry lands, you can also see mammals such as deer, bats, sheep, squirrels, and foxes.

The most common mammal in the area are sheep – more specifically Bighorn Sheep. These sheep closely resemble goats, as they have strong legs which allow them to climb mountains with ease.

They also have large horns. These horns are shaped like a circle around their ears and help the creatures break plantlife, giving them a method to eat prickly vegetation. 

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In A Canyon

To survive in a canyon, the animals need to be nimble and strong-footed. The Bighorn Sheep is a great example of this skill. They can walk up a mountain with seemingly no footholds by finding slip ledges along the sides of the structure.

In the Grand Canyon, animals and plant life need to also adapt to the heat. Cati does this by holding on to all of the water inside of them.

They can take small sips of the liquid when they need to, instead of letting it wash into the dry earth around them.


A desert is any sort of barren landscape. Living conditions in the landscape are hostile, meaning that animals and plants alike find it difficult to survive there,

The most well-known deserts are covered in sand and dramatic heat, however any area that is dry and has little vegetation can be considered a desert.

Surprisingly, deserts cover more than a fifth of the world and can be found on every continent on the planet. 

Animals That Live In Desert Biomes

Animals That Live In Desert Biomes

Most desert locations are hot, and it’s that heat which means that no vegetation can grow.

However, other deserts aren’t hot, simply dry. This means that although some grass types can come forth, there isn’t a varied or strong plant-based ecosystem.

To live in places like this, a tough animal needs to be small and good at handling the lack of moisture in the air. The most common animals to live in a desert are lizards, spiders, and snakes, however, you can also encounter camels, jackrabbits, and meerkats. 

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In A Desert

Because desert landscapes are so dry, the animals in this biome need to adapt to the low level of water in the area. Many do this by having a smaller shape than others of the same species.

Many deserts are both dry and hot, which means the animals need to adapt to avoid the sun too. This is another reason to be small in this terrain, as you’ll be more likely to fit under the limited shade.

Even better than finding shade is learning to bury yourself underground.

Underground temperatures are lower than those above ground, allowing the animals some respite from the heat.

Regardless of the heat, the dry landscape means that finding water is difficult. To ensure these animals survive the eternal drought, most develop salt glands that allow them to eat salty minerals without losing any of the water they have acquired.


A forest is an area of land with a prominent and even dominant tree population. The trees may be so thick that wading through the landscape is difficult, or they could be nicely spread out to allow the movement of vehicles.

As long as there is a density of trees, and these plants take up the dominant life form of the area, then it is a forest.

Animals That Live In Forests

Animals that live in forests need to know how to climb trees, otherwise, they will not be able to traverse the landscape easily.

With this in mind, the first animal you think of might be a monkey, due to their opposable thumbs and ability to swing from branch to branch, however, there are multiple ways to climb a tree.

Take the Lynx, for example, these pointy-eared cats are fantastic jumpers. They also have fierce claws which help them climb a tree much easier than others from the cat species. 

Another common animal in a forest goes against our suggestions to live in the treetops. These are the delicate deers. Although these herbivores can’t climb, they have something else up their sleeve.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In A Forest

Deers, have thin legs and spotted fur, both of which allow them to become camouflaged in the woodlands. They also have a thick coat in the winter which is important in a forest biome.

Because the trees block the sun, forest areas come dramatically cold in the winter. This means animals that inhabit this biome need to grow a thick layer of insulation to stay warm.

When the sun returns, these same leaves trap the heat inside its covered area, making it super hot in the summer. Animals that live here need to grow warm coats in the winter and shed them in the summer.


Glaciers are large areas of the ice. Due to their fluctuating weight, they are often moving. This could mean moving through the water, slowly breaking apart as they do so, or moving up and down making it an uneven surface.

Although glaciers are icy, they can also be made up of rocks, snow, and water. They are often formed when an earthquake separates the ice from the desert land it was attached to and it can continue to stay firm for years to come.

However, due to Global Warming, the speed at which glaciers reduce has increased.

Animals That Live On Glaciers

Animals That Live On Glaciers

The types of animals that live on glaciers by choice are penguins, seals, and polar bears. We say “by choice” as some animals become stranded on these gloating deserts by mistake. 

The land may have broken away while the creature was still standing on it, forcing the mammals to either attempt to swim back to safety or starve on the floating ice.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive On A Glacier

To survive on a glacier, the animals need to know how to swim. Glaciers can act as perfect areas of respite for swimming mammals. They can dry off, escape predictors, and sleep when the nights draw in. 

However, they cannot stay on the ice forever unless there is a meal source. If a pack of penguins has set up shop on the icy hills, a polar bear may stay on the glacier until they have had their fill.

But if no other food is available, the animals need to brace the water and continue moving.


Hills are like mountains, but they don’t reach such a height. To be a mountain, the peak of the raised land needs to be at least 300 meters (1,000 feet) or more higher than the areas which surround it.

Hills can be found on any terrain. This means you could have a hill in a desert or inside a forest. As long as the land rises dramatically but is less than 300 meters high, it counts.

Animals That Live On Hills

There is a large range of animals that live on hills. This is because the hill itself won’t give the creatures much cause for concern. It is normally the area in which the hill resides that causes a problem for these creatures. 

The Adaptations Needed To Survive On A Hill

Although the hill itself isn’t normally a problem for animals, the creatures with the most freedom are those which can fly.

Merlins, hawks, owls, and so on. These birds can traverse over the inclines with ease, as their wings can carry them through the landscape.


Marshes are also known as wetlands. They are grassy or muddy areas that are waterlogged. You can often find this boggy landscape near lakes, large rivers, or other bodies of water.

The water floods the area, entering into grassy biomes which either causes the grassland to thrive or drowns it. The mixture leaves you with either tall reeds or muddy terrain.

Animals That Live In Marshes

The types of animals that live in wetlands do well in both aquatic and terrestrial landscapes. For example, you can expect to see beavers and alligators in these boggy areas. Both mammals enjoy the water, but can easily walk and survive on land.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In Marshes

As you might expect, the most important adaptation a marshland creature needs to survive, is the ability to swim. This means they need to be buoyant, have waterproof fur or skin, and ideally have a second clear eyelid that acts like goggles.

Creatures don’t need all of those adaptations to survive, but the more they have the longer they can stay underwater.

The second adaptation they need is fur or skin which is well camouflaged with the dark depths of the bog and as well as the green foliage. 

Crocodiles are a great example of this as their dark green skin can keep them hidden in the murky water as well as the low areas of grassland.


As you may have noticed already, we are going through these terrains in alphabetical order. However, we have already briefly touched on mountains, when we discussed hills.

The difference between the two comes down to height. If the peaking landscape is 300 meters (1,000 feet) or more, higher than the areas which surround it, then it can no longer be seen as a hill.

Animals That Live On Mountains

Animals That Live On Mountains

The types of animals that live on mountains need to be nimble on their feet. Goats and sheep are almost always found on this terrain, as they can use their tiny hooves and strong legs to climb to precarious heights.

However, small creatures like rabbits and rodents can survive in these locations too. Not only are they small enough to climb the rocks like they were stairs, but they can also run fast enough to avoid any sweeping predators looking in from the skies.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive On Mountains

Along with strong legs and stable footwork, a creature that lives on the mountain needs two additional adaptations – the ability to survive the cold and the ability to breathe in an area of low oxygen.

Because of how high the mountain biome is, the creatures that live there will be subject to thin oxygen levels. This means their respiratory system needs to be prepared for less oxygen overall.

Due to the lack of oxygen, the area is colder too. The creatures need to have thick fur coats to protect them from the deadly chill.


Oases do exist. They are seemingly random fertile areas in a desert landscape. In movies and pop culture, oases are seen as mirages – a trick of the light to make you think you can see water in the distance.

However, within a desert, you may find an area that still contains fertile ground. It could be a valley that managed to contain water from rainfall, or even the first sign of life when the landscape changes from hostile to liveable.

Animals That Live In Oases

Just like with hills, animals that live in oases will reflect the animals that live in the surrounding biome. Although all oases are found in the desert, that landscape could be hot like the Sahara desert or simply devoid of vegetation.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In An Oasis

Surviving in an oasis isn’t a struggle. As long as the creature can live comfortably in the area where the oasis resides, then the body of water itself will feel like heaven.


An ocean is a large area of salt water. Many people confuse oceans with seas, however, there is a very small difference. Seas are large bodies of salty water that are separated by the land. The ocean is separated by the concept of continents. 

Just as there are 7 continents of the world, there are 7 oceans – Pacific, Atlantic, Southern, Arctic, Indian, North Atlantic, and South Atlantic.

When it comes to seas, there are over 50 formations to count.

Animals That Live In The Ocean

There are an uncountable number of animals that live in the ocean, so to help narrow down our list, we will just look at the known mammal types.

These are cetaceans (such as dolphins, whales, and porpoises), pinnipeds (such as sea lions, seals, and walruses), sirenian (such as dugongs and manatees), and marine fissipeds (such as sea otters and polar bears).

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In The Ocean

There are three adaptations needed to survive in the ocean – the ability to breathe, swim and stay warm.

When it comes to breathing, most aquatic animals have evolved to breathe through gills. These allow oxygen to be picked up through the capillaries and be passed through the blood vessels.

Others move their respiratory system into a more convenient location – for example, cetaceans use a blow hole on the top of their heads.

To swim, mammals need to become streamlined. They often do this by having small layers of hair which fall away as they grow up, while the rest of their outward body is made up of skin.

Their body or heads are also shaped to allow for aerodynamic movement underwater.

Lastly, the mammals need to stay warm in these freezing temperatures. They do this by storing fat or blubber around their vital organs, keeping them warm.


Grasslands, also known as plains, are a large stretch of land filled with grass-like vegetation.

The Great Plains of North America are one version of this terrain, but a large meadow in the middle of a forest would also be considered grassland.

Animals That Live In Grasslands

Because of the large amount of vegetation, the creatures that live in grasslands can also grow to huge sizes.

Animals such as elephants, lions, antelopes, and giraffes can all be found in these open-spaced feeding grounds.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In Grasslands

Surviving in the grasslands is easy if you only consider the environment. The temperature is stable, there is a lot of shade and there is plenty of food and water.

The issue with this terrain comes from the large predators that also take advantage of this easy lifestyle.

To survive in this environment, creatures need to be fast, they need to camouflage with the grasslands and they need to understand social systems.

If they are fast enough, they can outrun their predator. If they have good camouflage, their predator may not spot them. These two concepts are easy enough to understand, but the last one may have thrown you.

Prey animals in the plains often come in large packs, but so do the predators. In both instances, they need their pack to survive the landscape.

If the animals cannot fit into the social system of their group, they will be outcasts and forced to wander the grasslands on their own.

Lone animals are easier to kill, as they will have fewer defenses and cannot outmaneuver a pack that can corner them from every angle. Lone animals are more likely to perish.


Rivers are naturally flowing waterways of fresh water. They often end at the mouth of a lake, sea or ocean. There isn’t a real difference between rivers and streams apart from their size.

Rivers are larger than streams but smaller than seas.

Both streams and rivers are made of freshwater, often starting as a stream from a tall mountain, when multiple streams connect together to create a river.

The river then continues to flow until it reaches a flat body of water for it to disperse into. Sometimes streams skip the river part and turn into lakes. This is common in the lochs of Scotland.

Animals That Live In Rivers

Animals That Live In Rivers

The animals that live in rivers have to adapt to the freshwater conditions. Saltwater is far denser than freshwater and can cause dehydration.

This is why ocean creatures and creatures that live in low-water areas need salt glands to regulate their salt intake.

Freshwater, however, has its saltiness reduced due to the rain. The idea of “freshness” comes from the “fresh” drops of rain in the water. Whereas saltwater has minerals in the surrounding rocks which turn it salty.

Common animals that do well in rivers are river otters, eels, snakes, and crocodiles.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In Rivers

To live in freshwater, animals need to be prepared for the fast movement of rivers as well as the change in water type. 

Because freshwater isn’t as dense, this means the creatures will need more buoyancy in their body. Saltwater mammals find it difficult to stay afloat in rivers due to this lack of buoyancy.

When it comes to preparing for the fast movement of this water type, creatures tend to have narrower faces and thicker skin.

This gives them more control in the water, and a harder exterior in case they knock into rocks. For a good comparison look at sea otters and river otters.

Sea otters are considered cute because of their fluffy fur and round faces, whereas river otters are seen as scary due to their narrow face, large teeth, and slick fur.


Swamps are very similar to wetlands, as they are both a mixture of water and plant life. However, where a marshland has grass and is mostly out in the open, swamps have trees and shrubs as their foliage.

This difference might seem minuscule, however, the addition of darkness and trees creates a different level of carbon dioxide, water purity, and shelter.

Animals That Live In Swamps

Animals that live in swamps often have a darker tinge to their scales, skin, or fur. This allows them to hide in the shadows. They need to do well in watery biomes and be fast enough to escape predators. 

Those who can’t swim fast should at least have a good bite. This is why you can find creatures such as the snapping turtle, water snake, alligator, and mosquitoes in these areas.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In Swamps

We have already mentioned the need for darker fur and skin in the swamp lands. The deep colors allow the creatures to hide in the darkness created by the trees and murky water.

However, some creatures like the sloth, grow moss on their backs to help them blend into the background. 

This is particularly important for such a slow creature, as although they are fantastic swimmers, they cannot climb or run away quickly. Instead, they need to be good at hiding.

Because swamps can have a mixture of salt and freshwater, the creatures that live there need to have salt-secreting glands to remove excess salt that has been digested.

A lot of the plants in the area will also shed their leaves or add a waxy cover to themselves to prevent the salt from harming their organs.


The tundra is an area that is so cold that trees struggle to grow there. You may still see grass plants and shrubs during the growing season, but these seasons are very short in comparison to other terrains.

Temperatures in this area can be around -30 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-34 to -6 degrees Celsius). However, despite this deep cold, some creatures can survive this hostile land.

Animals That Live In Tundras

The commonly known animals that live in the tundra are polar bears and penguins, but there are more creatures in the terrain than those classic kid’s toys.

For example, you can find goats, caribou, arctic hares, and arctic foxes in these areas too. Hairy creatures such as oxen and yak are also a common sight in these regions, as are marmots and lemmings.

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In Tundras

To survive in the tundra, animals need to first conquer the harsh cold. They do this by evolving thick fur and denser feathers.

Take the yak as an example. They have luscious hair around their massive bodies to trap the heat. They also have large bodies but short legs. This helps them keep the heat contained in the area with the most insulation. 

Some animals such as marmots and bears will hibernate during the coldest month, while others such as lemmings will burrow in the night to keep themselves warm and allow for quick escapades in the day to find more food.


Our last terrain to dive into has been briefly mentioned before – the valley. Previously we compared valleys to canyons – the first terrain in our article. We stated that the difference came from how deep and wide the gap was.

Canyons are often steeper than valleys, creating sheer drops. Valleys are often wider than canyons, and large enough to fit full towns in.

Valleys are often identified by the mountains or hills that surround them, as these are the landscapes that create the dip of the valley.

They are normally created by rivers that may no longer exist in the area. The erosion from the lazy rivers causes wide gaps between peaks.

Animals That Live In Valleys

Animals That Live In Valleys

The types of animals you can expect in a valley often depend on where that valley is. If the valley is in a tundra, expect a different collection of animals than those in the grasslands.

However, either way, these creatures need to have strong legs and nimble movement. If they are small, they might have an easier time maneuvering through the tricky rocky areas.

No matter where the valley is in the world, you will likely see sheep, goats, and lizards in the area. These three species either have great movement on tricky terrain or are fast and nimble enough to avoid predators. 

The Adaptations Needed To Survive In Valleys

In rural areas surrounded by valleys, you will likely find sheep which have been bred to take on the environment with ease.

Take Wales, for example, much of the grazing land dedicated to sheep in Wales is on the hard-to-farm valleys.

Many of these sheep breeds will have short legs which allow them to stay close to the ground when grazing. This balances their body and helps them maintain their center of gravity. 


Each of these landscapes and terrains give our earth the variety it needs to handle the changing climates. However, just because one breed of a species can live in that terrain doesn’t mean that all from the same class can do the same.

Each breed will have its own adaptations cultivated through thousands of years of adapting to survive. Next time you see a wild animal in its natural habitat, look at how its body or movements help them overcome its surroundings.


What are the terrains of the world?

The terrains of the world encompass various types of land formations, including plateaus, mountains, plains, valleys, canyons, karsts, cirques, foothills, open terrains, tundra, oasis, steppe, desert, swamp, forest, marsh, river, and hill terrains. Each type has unique characteristics and plays crucial roles in determining factors like human settlement suitability, agricultural potential, military strategy, and weather patterns.

How many kinds of terrain are there?

There are at least 15 different types of terrain found in the world, including plateaus, mountains, plains, valleys, canyons, karsts, cirques, foothills, open terrains, tundra, oasis, steppe, desert, swamp, forest, marsh, river, and hill. Each type has its own characteristics and examples, totaling 15-18 distinct types of terrain identified.

Which country has all types of terrain?

No specific country is identified as encompassing all these terrain features. The diversity of terrain seems to be distributed across multiple countries and regions rather than concentrated in one place.