The Red Kangaroo – The World’s Biggest Marsupial!

How Big Is The Red Kangaroo?

 

The Red Kangaroo and the human.

The red kangaroo is the world’s biggest marsupial. An average-sized red kangaroo stands about 1.5 metres (5 feet) tall, a bit shorter than an average human. They can often grow up to half a metre (20 inches) taller. An adult male can weigh 85 kg (185 lb), but on average are about 25% lighter than this.

The Red Kangaroo’s Habitat

There are several types of kangaroo in Australia. The Red Kangaroo is the largest, and lives across the dry deserts of the north. It keeps itself cool by staying in the shade and staying inactive when it is hot – it is mostly active at night, and especially at dawn and dusk. It also pants (like dogs do) and licks its front legs.

Like all kangaroos, the red kangaroo is a plant-eater. Its favourite foods are grasses and low plants. Its body conserves water very well, so that it can get enough water from the food it eats. In fact, as long as it has enough food, it can survive for long periods without drinking.

Red Kangaroo Facts

Scientists call the red kangaroo Macropus Rufus, which means “Red Bigfoot”. There are 14 different types of Macropus, including all the different types of kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos. Wallabies and wallaroos all look quite similar to kangaroos.
A pair of red kangaroos.
All these belong to a family called Macropodidae, which also means “big-foot”. All these creatures still have long feet and move around by hopping, but many don’t look much like kangaroos. In fact, early Dutch explorers named a certain island off Western Australia a “rat’s nest” because it was full of a medium-sized Macropod called the “Quokka”.

The family Macropodidae belongs to the order Diprotodontia, meaning “two front teeth”. These include all the most famous marsupials – kangaroos, koalas, wombats, possums and more. Therefore the red kangaroo is

  • The world’s biggest of the 14 types of Kangaroo, Wallaby and Wallaroo,
  • The world’s biggest of the 47 or so types of Macropod,
  • The world’s biggest of the 120 or so types of Diprotodontia,

as well as the world’s biggest marsupial. It’s not the biggest mammal or even the biggest land mammal. These honours go to the Blue Whale and the African Bush Elephant respectively.

The Red Kangaroo’s Jump

The kangaroo has an amazing jump. It can leap over a 3 metre (10 foot) fence, and its hopping strides can be over 5 metres long (17 feet). This amazing leap has even inspired poets, including one of my favourite funny poems, by Ogden Nash, which he wrote to accompany Camille Saint-Saëns‘ Carnival of the Animals :

The Kangaroo can jump incredible.
He has to jump, because he’s edible.
I could not eat a kangaroo,
But many fine Australians do.
Those with cookbooks, and with boomerangs,
Enjoy him in tasty kangaroo-meringues
.

Now I don’t know about the meringues, but a 5 metre jump by a 1.5 metre animal is truly incredible.

The kangaroo has special stretchy tendons in its legs, that act like springs as it bounces from hop to hop. A red kangaroo uses about the same amount of energy hopping fast as it does hopping slowly.

Other Red Kangaroo Facts

Fortunately, these amazing creatures are not in the least endangered. When times are good, they can increase in numbers very fast. They live up to 14 years, and a mother kangaroo can have a baby every 8 or 9 months. A baby kangaroo is called a “Joey”, and a group of kangaroos is called a “Mob”. When male red kangaroos fight, they balance on their hind legs and tail, grapple with their front paws, and occasionally deliver a solid hind-leg kick. If you like, you can see a video of this happening. It looks a bit like boxing, so that’s why people talk about “boxing kangaroos”.

red kangaroo

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