Kangaroo is an iconic marsupial that is indigenous to Australia and New Guinea. Marsupials are mammals that carry their young in a pouch. Here are 10 amazing kangaroo facts.

1. Kangoroos are the largest marsupials on Earth

Although they come in different sizes, kangaroos are the largest marsupials on Earth. Large individuals can stand more than 2 meters (6 ft 7 in) tall and weigh 90 kg (200 lb).

A large kangaroo
Kangaroos are the largest marsupials on Earth. A big red kangaroo Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Australia. Photo by Steve Bittinger, CC BY 2.0, original photo.

2. They move by hopping

Kangaroos move by hopping. They are the only large animals in the world that use hopping as a means of locomotion.

The comfortable hopping speed for a Red Kangaroo is about 25 km/h (15.5 mph), but thanks to their large feet and very powerful hind legs, they have a sprinting speed of up to 56 km/h (35 mph) for short bursts. They can also cover up to 8 meters (25 feet) in a single hop.

3. They use their huge tail as a third leg

Their tails are about 1 meter in length (3.3 feet). When moving slowly, sometimes they do not hop. They use their tail as a third leg.

While fighting, they balance themselves on their huge tails and kick each other in the abdomen. Their kick is extremely powerful and dangerous. They can easily injure a human by kicking.

A kangaroo is using its tail as a fifth leg. A new study involving CU-Boulder indicates a kangaroo grazing across the landscape uses its tail just like a leg. While it looks awkward, the tail provides as much propulsive force as the front and hind legs combined. Researchers used a force-measuring platform sensor to chart vertical, backward, and forward forces from the legs and tails.

4. They are good swimmers

Kangaroos are surprisingly good swimmers. Their massive and strong tail once again helps them here. When threatened by a predator like a dingo, they usually flee toward the water, if any body of water is around.

Furthermore, sometimes, once the kangaroo is chest-deep in the water, it turns around and confronts the predator, grabbing it with its forelimbs and attempts to drown it!

Adept kangaroo swims towards the Queensland coastline

5. There are more kangaroos than humans in Australia

Their lifespan is short: they live around 6 years in the wild. Captive individuals tend to live longer (up to 20 years), like most wild animals.

The reason their population is so high is that females are almost constantly pregnant. And the gestation period is incredibly short: only 33 days.

As a result of this (and the fact that they have few predators), there are more kangaroos than humans in Australia! As of 2015, there were 44 million kangaroos in Australia. For comparison, there are about 24 million people live on the continent.

6. Newborn babies can’t suckle

Newborn kangaroos can’t suckle or swallow, so mothers use their muscles to pump milk down the baby’s throat.

Baby kangaroos are known as joeys. Females are called a doe and males are called a buck.

Another amazing fact about kangaroos is: mother can freeze the embryo development until the current joey is able to leave the pouch! Once it leaves, she resumes her pregnancy.

A mother and her young. Marsupials carry their young in a pouch.

7. They are mostly left-handed

Kangaroos use their hands while feeding and grooming. Researchers observed that a whopping 95% of individuals are left-handed. This observation challenges the idea that handedness is unique to primates.

8. Kangaroos don’t emit methane

All kangaroo species are strict herbivores. The eastern grey kangaroo usually eats grass. Red kangaroos also eat grass but they include significant amounts of shrubs in their diets. Smaller species also consume hypogeal fungi.

Scientists have identified a special type of bacterium in their stomach that processes the food without producing methane. Unlike other herbivores such as cattle, they release virtually no methane in the atmosphere. It’s not only more efficient for them to process their food but also good for the environment since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of about 28-34 times that of CO2.

Researchers hope to study these bacteria to try to implement them in farm animals like cows in order to reduce the amount of methane released by them.

9. There’s a species of kangaroo that live in trees

You wouldn’t think they were kangaroos if you saw them! They are small, and they look like a monkey mixed with a sloth mixed with a bear.

They usually walk on four legs and do not hop much.

They are native to New Guinea. In Australia, they can be found only in far northeastern Queensland.

Unfortunately, their populations are in decline due to deforestation and hunting.

The Tree Kangaroo, or Boongarry, as the locals call them, looks like a monkey mixed with a sloth mixed with a bear, but it’s neither sloth nor monkey nor bear.

10. They do “boxing”

Fighting or “boxing” is common in all species of kangaroos, usually between males. Fights can be brief or long and ritualized. In highly competitive situations such as males fighting for access to estrous females or at limited drinking spots, the fights are brief. Both sexes will fight for drinking spots, but long, ritualized fighting is largely done by males.

Kangaroo boxing: Somewhere on the Central Coast of Australia, two males are caught on camera in an intense boxing match on a suburban street. These large marsupials can be seen punching and kicking each other close to houses in Central Coast, New South Wales. The funny fight goes on for more than five minutes. Luckily, both animals were OK and not seriously harmed after the match.

Smaller males fight more often near females in oestrus, while the large males in consorts do not seem to get involved. Ritualized fights can arise suddenly when males are grazing together. However, most fights are preceded by two males scratching and grooming each other. One or both of them will adopt a high standing posture, with one male issuing a challenge by grasping the other male’s neck with its forepaw.

Sometimes, the challenge will be declined. Interestingly, large males often reject challenges by smaller males – not a common behavior in animals, usually, larger males use the advantage of being much powerful in the other animal specifies. During the fight, the combatants adopt a high standing posture and paw at each other’s heads, shoulders, and chests.

They will also lock forearms and wrestle and push each other as well as balance on their tails to kick each other in the abdomens. Brief fights are similar except there is no forearm locking. The losing combatant seems to use kicking more often, perhaps to parry the thrusts of the eventual winner. Winners are decided when a kangaroo breaks off the fight and retreats. Winners are able to push their opponents backward or down to the ground. They also seem to grasp their opponents when they break contact and push them away.

The initiators of the fights are usually the winners. These fights may serve to establish dominance hierarchies among males, as winners of fights have been seen to displace their opponent from resting sites later in the day. Dominant males may also pull grass to intimidate subordinates.


M. Özgür Nevres
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