Conservation Education and Science
Animal Facts & Photos  
Red Kangaroo
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Macropus rufus
ORDER: Marsupialia
FAMILY: Macropodidae
RANGE: Interior of Australia
HABITAT: Desert and semi-desert
DIET: Grasses, shrubs and leaves

The red kangaroo, largest of the marsupials, stands up to five feet tall, with a three-to-four-foot tail. The male weighs about 120 pounds; the female is shorter and weighs about 65 pounds. The soft, dense fur is reddish-brown to red on the adult male; the female and juveniles are gray. The long tail, long, heavy hind legs, short forelegs and large ears typify the red kangaroo. To get around, the kangaroo hops, pushing off on its hind legs and feet, sailing up to 25 feet through the air, using the outstretched tail for balance. Feeding posture is a slow grazing movement using the tail as a fifth support, pushing forward with the hind legs onto the forelegs as the tail braces. An upright stance is regarded as a threat to the kangaroo and is the posture assumed when “boxing,” an aggressive activity.

The nocturnal red kangaroo lives in a group, or mob, of 100 or more animals, with at least one adult male. There seems to be little territoriality, but rival males fight for mates. To cool itself, the animal pants, and licks its forearms, which carry blood vessels close to the skin surface.

Red kangaroo gestation lasts 33 days. The thumb-sized baby, or joey, is born quite undeveloped, but its strong forearms enable it to crawl, unaided, into the mother’s pouch and latch onto a nipple. Releasing the nipple in about 70 days, the joey sticks its head out of the pouch at 150 days, temporarily emerges at 190 days and permanently vacates the pouch in 235 days The joey continues to suckle, by placing its head in the pouch, until fully weaned at a year. A continuous breeder, the female produces different kinds of milk for more than one offspring at a time. A joey that has left the pouch requires fat-rich milk for energy; the pouch-bound sibling needs more carbohydrates. The adult male red kangaroo is call a “boomer,” while the female is known as a “blue flyer.” The kangaroo appears on Australia’s coat of arms.