Kangaroos are common to the country of Australia. Kangaroos possess large powerful hind legs, large feet adapted for kicking, a long muscular tale for balance, and a small head. They’re the biggest of all marsupials, standing over 6 feet (2 meters) tall. Kangaroos belong to the animal family Macropus, literally “big foot.” Thanks to their large feet, kangaroos can leap some 30 feet in a single bound, and travel more than 30 mph (48 kmh). Kangaroos use their strong tails for balance while jumping.
Kangaroos live in Eastern Australia. They live in small groups called troops or herds (“mobs” by Australians), typically made up of 50 or more animals. If threatened, kangaroos pound the ground with their strong feet in warning. Fighting kangaroos kick opponents, and sometimes bite.
Female kangaroos sport a pouch on their belly, made by a fold in the skin, to cradle baby kangaroos called joeys. Newborn joeys are just one inch long (2.5 centimeters) at birth, or about the size of a grape. After birth, joeys travel, unassisted, through their mom’s thick fur to the comfort and safety of the pouch. A newborn joey can’t suckle or swallow, so the kangaroo mom uses her muscles to pump milk down its throat. At around 4 months, the joey emerges from the pouch for short trips and to graze on grass and small shrubs. At 10 months, the joey is mature enough to leave the pouch for good.
There are more than 50 species of kangaroos. The two main types are red kangaroos and gray kangaroos. Red kangaroos are the largest marsupials in the world.
Female kangaroos have a pouch called a marsupium in which joeys complete after birth development. Larger kangaroos have adapted better to changes brought to the Australian landscape by humans. Wild kangaroos are shot for meat, leather hides, sports, and to protect grazing land for sheep and cattle.
The kangaroo is the national symbol of Australia. Its emblem is used on the Australian coat of arms. The kangaroo is both important to Australian culture and the national image and consequently there are numerous popular culture references. The name was first recorded as “Kangooroo or Kanguru” on 4 August 1770, by Lieutenant James Cook on the banks of the Endeavour River at the site of modern Cooktown.