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Red Kangaroo

Macropus rufus

photo: male and female red kangaroos

photo: male and female red kangaroos (View larger version)

Photograph by Joseph J. Scherschel, National Geographic Stock  

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The red kangaroo is the world's largest marsupial. Females have one baby at a time, which at birth is smaller than a cherry. The infant immediately climbs into its mother's pouch and does not emerge for two months. Until they reach about eight months of age, threatened young kangaroos, called joeys, will quickly dive for the safety of mom's pouch. As they grow, joeys' heads and feet can often be seen hanging out of the pouch.

Red kangaroos hop along on their powerful hind legs and do so at great speed. A red kangaroo can reach speeds of over 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour. Their bounding gate allows them to cover 25 feet (8 meters) in a single leap and to jump 6 feet (1.8 meters) high.

Female red kangaroos are smaller, lighter, and faster than males. They also boast a blue-hued coat, so many Australians call them "blue fliers."

Larger male kangaroos are powerfully built. Like many species, male kangaroos sometimes fight over potential mates. They often lean back on their sturdy tail and "box" each other with their strong hind legs. Kangaroos can also bite and wield sharp claws, which they may do in battle with an enemy like a dingo.

Red kangaroos live in Australia's deserts and open grasslands, gathering in groups called mobs. Aboriginal and European Australians have spent centuries clearing open tracts of land and establishing water sources—both of which are boons to kangaroo populations. Many millions of these animals roam Australia, and considerable numbers are killed each year for their skins and meat, which is becoming a more popular human food.

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