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13 Fun Kangaroo Facts That Will Make You Jump for Joy

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10 March, 2023

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If someone mentions Australia, one’s mind immediately will think of sunshine, the Sydney Opera House, and kangaroos. This animal is one of the most iconic symbols of the Land Down Under, so much so that the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and the Australian one-dollar coin feature it. 

These well-known animals are among the favorites of many kids and adults alike. After all, they’re fascinating creatures that are fun to observe. They hop and jump in almost cartoonish ways, and they’ve definitely captured the hearts of many!

If you want to learn more about these fascinating marsupials, why not read these fun facts about them? 

Facts about Kangaroos to Share with Your Loved Ones

Despite being popular animals, many farmers in Australia dislike kangaroos because they tend to wander into farmlands and snack on the crops there. However, these creatures have a lot of other redeeming qualities that make them so interesting! Here are some kangaroo facts you can share with your loved ones:

  1. The Term “Kangaroo” Comes from an Aboriginal Australian Word

Aboriginal Australians are among the first settlers on the Australian mainland and the surrounding islands. They coexisted with kangaroos long before the Europeans discovered the country. 

Kangaroos are important animals for these people’s cultural and spiritual beliefs. In fact, many ancient rock paintings in Australia feature kangaroos. 

So, what’s with the name? The term “kangaroo” comes from the word “gangurru,” a name that the Guugu Yimithirr people of Far North Queensland gave to gray kangaroos.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

  1. Kangaroos Come in Various Shapes and Sizes

There isn’t just one species of kangaroo. Kangaroos belong to a large group of animals called Macropodidae, meaning “large foot.” There are over 50 similar-looking species belonging in the same group, but four of the largest ones commonly called kangaroos are the red, antilopine, eastern gray, and western gray kangaroos.

The smallest members of the group Macropodidae are commonly called “wallabies,” while medium-sized ones are called “wallaroos.” They also have tree-dwelling cousins called “tree-kangaroos,” which live in the tropical rainforests of New Guinea. Who knew such creatures even existed?

Photo by: Karolina Grabowska

  1. Kangaroos Are the World’s Largest Marsupials

Marsupials are a distinctive group of mammals that carry their babies in pouches. This group includes koalas, opossums, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and bandicoots. The largest animals of the group are kangaroos.

The red kangaroo is the largest species of kangaroo by weight. Red kangaroos have a head-to-body length of up to 5 ft 3 in (1.6 m) and weigh up to 198 lb (90 kg). Meanwhile, eastern gray kangaroos can reach almost 6 ft 7 in (2 m) in height but have much leaner bodies. They only weigh up to 146 lb (66 kg).

Learn more about marsupials with About Marsupials: A Guide for Children

Photo by: Valeriia Miller

  1. Kangaroos Can Move Fast

With such large and strong-looking legs, it’s no surprise that kangaroos are fast. Although their typical speed is roughly around 13–16 mph (21–26 km/h), they can reach top speeds of over 43 mph (70 km/h). That’s about as fast as an average well-trained racehorse, which can gallop up to 44 mph (71 km/h)! 

Kangaroos owe their speed to their powerful hind legs and large feet built for leaping. Their hind legs have large, elastic tendons that act almost like springs and help the ‘roos bounce around effortlessly. They also use their muscular tails for balance.

A single leap of a red kangaroo can cover up to 30 feet (9 m), and it can jump as high as six feet (1.8 m) from standing. Now, that’s impressive!

Photo by Kate Branch

  1. Kangaroos Can Be Great Swimmers, Too

While it’s not too shocking that kangaroos are quick hoppers and jumpers on land, perhaps this kangaroo fact may surprise you. These animals can swim rather well!

Kangaroos don’t often go in the water, but they may wade through it to cross rivers or avoid animals that may be chasing them. They make paddling motions much like dogs and propel themselves with their strong, muscular tails.

As these animals swim, they keep their heads above the water and use their excellent sense of hearing to check for predators.

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

  1. Kangaroos Often Travel in Mobs

‘Roos are social animals that often live and feed in groups called mobs, herds, courts, or troupes. A single mob may have a handful or up to dozens of individuals.

The bonds among mobs aren’t too tight-knit, so they can occasionally switch members. Traveling in groups allows kangaroos to protect each other, as some animals, like eagles or dingoes, may want to hunt them.

Know more about the importance of mobs in kangaroos with the story of Sydney the Kangaroo!

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

  1. Male Kangaroos Have Boxing Competitions

When mating season comes, male kangaroos (also called jacks or boomers) get competitive. To win over the love of the ladies (called jills or flyers), males hold boxing competitions. Typically, the strongest among them is the only one who wins over the females.

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

  1. They Use Their Tails as a Fifth Leg

Aside from the short forelegs and powerful hind legs of kangaroos, they also use their muscular tails as fifth limbs. When moving short distances, these animals can form some sort of “tripod” with their front legs and tail, with the hind legs propelling them forward.

Kangaroos can even balance on their tails alone! How cool is that?

Photo by Luis La

  1. Kangaroos Are Plant-Eaters

Kangaroos are herbivorous animals, which means they eat plant material like grasses, shrubs, and herbs. Their flat front teeth can cut grass close to the ground, and they use their back teeth to grind and chew the plants.

Photo by: Valeriia Miller

  1. Kangaroos Can Survive with Very Little Water

Kangaroos are built for dry habitats. Although they do need water to survive, they can survive several months without drinking.

The bodies of kangaroos are efficient at conserving water, and they can absorb moisture from the plants that the animals eat. Moreover, kangaroos are typically active when it’s cool and dark out, so they don’t lose water to the hot Australian sun.

Photo by: Sabel Blanco

  1. Newborn Kangaroos Are as Small as Paper Clips

After just 31–36 days of pregnancy, a mother kangaroo will give birth to a tiny newborn. Baby kangaroos (called joeys) are born super small — around one inch (2.5 cm) long. That’s about as long as a paper clip! These underdeveloped babies crawl toward their mother’s pouch and latch onto her teat until it grows and develops.

A joey can open its eyes after a few months, and it will begin to peek outside its mother’s pouch. It can take short trips outside of the pouch when it’s six months old, and it’ll be relatively independent by its eighth month. However, it may still drink its mother’s milk until it’s a year old.

Another fun fact about joeys is that they jump into their mother’s pouch when they sense danger!

Widen your imagination on kangaroos and their joeys with the tale of Joey Runs Away!

Photo by Aliaksei Semirski

  1. Kangaroos Can’t Move Backwards

Kangaroos’ unique anatomy prevents them from hopping backward. It’s one of the reasons that Australians placed it on their Coat of Arms — it represents a country that always moves forward.

Photo by: Karolina Grabowska

  1. Kangaroos Lick Their Arms to Stay Cool

The ranges of kangaroos in Australia can be extremely hot. Although ‘roos can cool off by sweating while hopping, they can’t sweat when they stop moving. Instead, they pant like dogs.

Another way for them to keep cool is by licking their arms. They have lots of blood vessels in their arms, and this action helps moisture evaporate and cool their blood.

Photo by: E M

Frequently Asked Questions on Kangaroos

Where do kangaroos live?

Kangaroos naturally live in the continent of Australia, but the ranges vary per species. Red kangaroos live all over the arid parts of Australia. Eastern grays range from the top of Cape York to Tasmania. Meanwhile, western gray kangaroos live in the southern part of Western Australia. Lastly, antilopine kangaroos live in the far north regions of the Australian mainland.

Why do kangaroos have pouches?

Kangaroos, like most marsupials, have pouches to carry their babies. This allows them to feed their babies milk even while they’re on the move.

Are kangaroos friendly?

Kangaroos are shy and aren’t usually friendly to humans. While they’re more likely to hop away from trouble, they can also attack people when they feel threatened. They’re wild animals, after all, and you need to treat them with care and respect!

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