Secrets of kangaroo’s pouch and 27 even more amazing kangaroo facts

There are three kangaroo characters in our children’s book “Kevin the kangaroo that couldn’t hop” – Joey, Splat and Wally, and they love to play with Kevin.

When I read our book to children, they often ask me questions about Australian animals. How high can a kangaroo hop? Why are kookaburras called laughing kookaburras?  Can I have a wombat as a pet?

As we already have facts about wombats and kookaburras on our blog, the time has come to look at kangaroos 😊 

1. What kangaroos and wombats have in common?

Kangaroos and wombats are marsupials. It means that a baby kangaroo and a baby wombat are born prematurely and continue their development attached to a nipple located in their mother’s belly pouch.
A kangaroo is also a member of a family called Macropodidae. The word ‘macropod’ derives from Ancient Greek and it means ‘long foot’.

2. How big is a kangaroo?

There are 4 species of kangaroos: the red kangaroo, the eastern grey kangaroo, the western grey kangaroo and the antilopine kangaroo. The largest is the red kangaroo, and it is also the largest marsupial on Earth! Males can be as tall as 6 feet (almost 2 meters) and weight 200 pounds (approx. 100kg).

kangaroo standing under the tree
Image by Penny from Pixabay

3. Where does the name 'kangaroo' come from?

The word ‘kangaroo’ comes from the Guugu Yimithirr word ‘gungurru’ referring to grey kangaroos. It was first recorded on 4th of August 1770 by Lieutenant James Cook on the banks of the Endeavour River at the site of modern Cooktown. Guugu Yimithirr was the language of the local people.

4. What kangaroo is called “the stinker”?

The western grey kangaroo earned the distinctive nickname “the stinker” 😊
As you have probably already guessed, it’s due to a strong odour that the kangaroo emanates after eating certain types of plants.

5. Why Australia has a kangaroo as its national symbol?

As the kangaroos are unable to move backward, they were chosen as Australian national symbol of progress.

6. Can a kangaroo swim?

When submerged, kangaroos have ‘diving reflex’ and don’t inhale water. They can swim, and what is even more interesting, they can move their legs separately! They keep their head and neck above the water and are able to swim hundreds of meters. The often run to water when they are scared or being hunted in a hope they will be left alone. However, if the chase continues they will not hesitate to drown the attacker.

Source: Rumble Viral

7. How many kangaroos are in Australia?

There are more kangaroos in Australia than humans! In 2015 there were 44 million of kangaroos and only 24 million people. The reason the population of kangaroos is so high is because the female kangaroos are practically constantly pregnant.

8. What does a kangaroo eat?

Kangaroos are herbivores. It means their diet is mostly plant-based. They eat grass, flowers, moss, but sometimes insects too. They digest their food in a similar way to cows (but without producing gases – see our next fact 😊) and regurgitate it before re-chewing. It’s a scientific way of saying that they eat what they throw up… 😯

9. Do kangaroos fart?

Scientists discovered a special type of bacteria in a kangaroo’s stomach that process its food without producing methane. What it means? Yes! You’re right! Kangaroos don’t fart! 😁
It’s very beneficial for environment, and for kangaroos too as they process their food more efficiently.

10. Do kangaroos drink water?

Kangaroos need water but during cooler months they can survive without drinking and absorb the water from their food.

The kangaroo’s body also has the ability to reabsorb urea (the waste product in urine) and reuse it to help conserve water.

That’s not all. They also produce very dried feces, like wombats, although not cube shaped, absorbing even more water in the last stage of digestion.

However, when they are desperate and very thirsty they are able to dig a hole 1 meter deep in search of water.

kangaroos drinking water on the road
Image by TitusStaunton from Pixabay

11. What are male and female kangaroos called?

Kangaroos have different names to distinguish them. Male kangaroo is called a boomer and a female kangaroo is called a flyer. Sometimes they are also called a buck and a doe.

12. How long is a kangaroo’s hop?

Legs of a kangaroo are like two giant springs capable of propelling the kangaroo up to 30 feet (9-10 meters) in a single hop! Their legs have no kneecaps, and the shin bone has shock absorbing pads made of fibrous cartilage. Kangaroo’s tail is as long as its body, can support all the kangaroo’s weight and acts as a rudder when hopping, allowing the kangaroo to change the direction when mid-air!

Hopping is a very efficient way of travel. Four-leg placental animals increase metabolic needs when they increase their moving speed. Surprisingly, kangaroos use a great amount of energy only to initiate hopping, after this point, metabolic needs decrease and it seems as though the faster they hop, the more efficient they become!

hopping kangaroo
Image by Penny from Pixabay

13. Can a kangaroo walk?

Kangaroos can’t walk as they can’t move their legs independently. But even without the ability to walk they can move very quickly and hop with a speed of 35 miles per hour!

Only when they are feeding they are moving in a sort of ’walking’ way, but they are using their very muscular tail that acts as a ‘third’ leg that moves them off the ground.

14. Why do kangaroos box?

Bachelor kangaroos are not only resolving their disputes by boxing, but also spend hours sparring to keep in shape, hoping that one day one of them will overturn the alpha male and sire the next generation.
They use their forearms to punch and their hind legs to kick. Although their fights look dangerous, they rarely seriously injure each other.

boxing kangaroos
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

15. Do kangaroos flex their biceps?

Yes, they do! 😊 They often adopt poses to show off their muscles to the female kangaroos 😊
Research found that their arm and shoulder muscles play an important role in attracting the opposite sex.

kangaroo flexing muscles
Image by Beverly Buckley from Pixabay

16. Is a kangaroo left-handed or right-handed?

Humans are not the only species that have a dominant hand! Kangaroos have it too and they are lefties! They usually use their left hand for feeding or grooming.

17. What do kangaroos have in common with elephants and manatees?

Kangaroos have teeth that are distinctive among mammals. We, humans, have only one set of adult teeth, but kangaroo’s teeth, similar to elephants and manatees, are replaced by a new set when they’re worn down. How does it work? They have four sets of cheek teeth on both sides that move forward to replace the worn ones.

18. What is so exceptional about a kangaroo’s pregnancy?

The mother kangaroo not only can delay her next pregnancy when she still has a joey in her pouch (it’s called embryonic diapause), but also determine the sex of her baby! Nobody really knows how she does it! 🤓 Apparently, in the early years she wants her joeys to be female, but as she gets older, she gives birth to male offspring.

19. How long does a kangaroo live?

In the wild kangaroos live 8-12 years. In human care they can live up to 27 years.

20. What is a baby kangaroo called?

A baby kangaroo is called ‘joey’ but a newborn is called ‘neonate’ because it’s not completely formed yet and can’t survive outside of the womb. It’s tiny – the size of a jellybean – hairless and blind. Despite that, it has already developed a sense of smell, strong front legs and claws and an instinct to find the pouch. After birth, the little one must climb to its mother’s pouch as soon as it can, but it can be a long, even 15 inches, hike through its mother’s fur! When it reaches the pouch, it attaches to one of four tits which swells and starts to produce milk.
The pouch has very strong muscles that are able to squeeze when the mother hops to prevent the baby kangaroo from falling out.

joey in kangaroo's pouch
Image by Ethan Brooke on Usplash

21. How long baby kangaroos stay with their mothers?

Joeys stay in the pouch from 1 year to 1.5 year. As they get older, they leave the pouch more often to explore but stay close to their mother for protection. The mother kangaroo can give birth to another joey while still nursing the older one in her pouch. When it happens, her body is able to produce different types of milk at the same time! Mothers develop a strong bond with their babies and enjoy caring for them. They even would search for them if they are lost.

joey looking into mother's pouch
Image by Ethan Brooke on Pexels

22. Are kangaroos sociable?

Kangaroos are very sociable animals and live in large groups called ‘mobs’, but their societies come in different forms. It can be a group of one alpha male and several females, a group of bachelor males, or a less defined group of both sexes living together.  In such group males will court females as they come into mating season and box with other males. Males can have multiple partners, but females will accept them only for a few days and then reject others once they have mated.

When the group has many members, they will form subgroups, but there is always one alpha male that is in charge and the females are his to mate whenever he chooses to.

Females within a mob form a very firm bond and care for each other. They even take care of joeys if their mother dies.

Kangaroos have very good vision and excellent hearing. When a member of a mob spots danger, it will warn the others by thumping the ground with its leg.

kangaroos grooming
Image by Eliza from Pixabay

23. What happens to the baby kangaroo’s poo when it’s in the pouch?

Little joeys living in their mother’s pouch are not potty trained 😊
Most of their urine and poo is absorbed by the lining of the pouch, but sometimes the mother has to do some ‘housekeeping’ and clean it out. She inserts her long snout into the pouch and uses her tongue to remove the content. When the baby joey is still attached to her nipple it can stay while she does it, but the older ones are kicked out! Temporarily of course! 😊

24. Do kangaroos often get hit by cars?

80% of all animals hit by cars in Australia are kangaroos. It happens so often that insurance companies don’t cover drivers driving in the dark in the Outback. Many cars have ‘roo’ bars installed to protect them from encounters with kangaroos (like Splat the kangaroo, one of the characters from our children’s book Kevin the kangaroo that couldn’t hop, who has bounced off a few cars in his time.. don’t worry he’s ok! 😊)

beware of kangaroos sign in australia
Image by Rae Wallis from Pixabay

25. What kangaroos and camels have in common?

Kangaroos have similar adaptations to camels. They can regulate their blood chemistry, adapt to barren conditions and become infertile when their body has little water due to draught. That’s why their population is highly dependent on the amount of rainfall.

26. Do kangaroos sweat?

Kangaroos sweat only when hopping. When they stop, they start to pant (up to 300 breaths per minute) to keep from overheating. Their cooling system is very unique and consist of hundreds of small blood vessels under the surface of their forearms.

When they rest and it’s hot, they hide in a shade. If they want to cool down, they lick their forearms until the fur is soaked or lick their paws and rub the moisture into their chest.

kangaroo resting in the shade
Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

27. Are kangaroos dangerous?

Kangaroos are large and powerful animals and should be treated with respect and caution. They are usually gentle but can attack people if they feel threatened.

28. Can kangaroos communicate with humans?

Researchers at the University of Roehampton in Britain and the University of Sydney in Australia have discovered that kangaroos can communicate with humans in the similar way as dogs and horses. The study suggest that they are much more intelligent than they previously thought. When they are hungry, they will come to you and look pleadingly at you and at the container of food. If it doesn’t work, they will sniff and paw at your leg.
The researchers are hoping that this discovery will encourage people to treat kangaroos with more care.

Source:

Kangaroo facts livescience.com

Kangaroo facts animalfactsencyclopedia.com

Kangaroos bushheritage.org.au

How kangaroos swim researchgate.net

Kangaroo understandinganimalresearch.org.uk

15 fun facts about kangaroos thefactsite.com

Amazing and interesting kangaroo facts koalaexpress.com.au

Kangaroo facts factanimal.com

The Roo files pbs.org

How kangaroos woo mates: The males flex their biceps timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Nutrition and adaptation bioweb.uwlax.edu

Read more