Look At Me Now Headland, Emerald Beach, New South Wales © Destination NSW
Fun facts about kangaroos
There’s no Aussie animal more iconic than our cute kangaroos. You might be familiar with these hopping marsupials, but we bet you didn’t know these fascinating facts.
By Leah Dobihal
1. Kangaroo joeys are the size of a jellybean
Baby kangaroos – called joeys – weigh less than two grams (less than an ounce) at birth. That’s about the size of a jellybean! After they’re born, they climb up their mother’s bellies into a comfy pouch to grow for another six months before emerging to greet the world.
2. They can’t move backwards
Because of their long feet and large tail, kangaroos can’t walk or hop backwards. This is one of the reasons the kangaroo appears on the Australian Coat of Arms, representing a nation that is always moving forward.
3. There are 60 species of kangaroo
Think all kangaroos are the same? Think again. There are dozens of species of kangaroos and wallabies, ranging from the two-metre (six-foot) tall red kangaroo to the musky rat kangaroo, whose tiny bodies are typically smaller than a rabbit. But one thing’s for sure - they’re all downright adorable.
4. And one of them climbs trees
While most kangaroos keep their extra-large feet on the ground, tree kangaroos spend their days in the rainforest canopy. They’re specially adapted for a life in the treetops, with a long tail that helps them leap from branch to branch.
5. They can hop 8 metres (25 feet) in a single bound
Powerful hind limbs help kangaroos hop huge lengths with incredible efficiency. In fact, kangaroos are the only large animals that move by hopping. The biggest kangaroos can clear 8 metres (25 feet) with one jump. You’d have to take about 10 steps to cover the same distance.
6. Female kangaroos can pause their pregnancies
That’s right – female kangaroos can suspend the development of their joeys in a process called embyonic diapause. This allows her to give birth when conditions are right, or wait to give birth until another joey has left her pouch.
7. Their tail is used as a fifth limb
Kangaroo tails are much more than an appendage. They’re incredibly muscular, and kangaroos use them like a fifth limb when moving on four legs. Their tail is even strong enough that it can carry a kangaroo’s entire body weight when they ‘box’, lifting both their hind legs to kick their opponent.
8. The name ‘kangaroo’ derives from an Aboriginal word
Kangaroos are culturally and spiritually significant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia. The kangaroo is often depicted in ancient rock paintings, which can date back tens of thousands of years. The name ‘kangaroo’ comes from the ‘gangurru,’ which is the name given to eastern grey kangaroos by the Guuga Yimithirr people of Queensland’s tropical north.
9. A group of ‘roos is called a mob, troop or court
Kangaroos are social creatures, and they live in groups called mobs, troops or courts. They have plenty of ways to communicate with each other, including nose touching, stomping their hind legs and growling. Mother kangaroos will even make clicking or clucking sounds to call their young back to them.
10. If there’s danger, joeys will dive headfirst into their mother’s pouch
Kangaroo joeys might look clumsy, but if there’s danger, they know just where to go. Young joeys will somersault into their mother’s pouch – sometimes at high speed – to seek safety. A few squirms will have them right-side-up again.