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Jeune kangourou roux © MNHN - P. Roux

Red kangaroo

The red kangaroo, Macropus rufus, is the largest of the Marsupials. Just like all the other kangaroos and wallabies, it moves by jumping, its muscular tail serving as a pendulum.


Class, order & family :

Mammalia, Diprotodontia, Macropodidae

Genus :


Species :


Lifespan :

27 years

Height and weight :

1.60 m long + 1.20-cm tail; 90 kg at the most

Gestation :

34 days and then 225 days in the pouch, one baby

Natural habitat :

arid and semi-arid regions

Diet :


Native region :


Conservation programme :


IUCN status: 

LC, Least concern

Way of life

The red kangaroo lives in small mixed groups led by a dominant male. They spend the hottest hours of the day in shady spots and go out looking for food at dusk.

During the breeding season, the male makes its colour bolder by producing dark and scented secretions from glands in its neck, and then spreading it across his chest and back. He doesn’t hesitate to defend his status by fighting his rivals: leaning on his tail, he punches and kicks. The small embryo weighs no more than a gram when it leaves to the uterus to go to the marsupial pouch. It spends the first seven months of its life there, firmly attached to one of the four teats. After that, Joey (the name given to a young kangaroo) will gradually begin exploring the outside world, leaving this refuge for good at the age of 9 months.

By storing eggs that have already been fertilised, the female can re-enter gestation without even needing to mate. The most recent arrival will then enter the pouch while the other still comes to feed. But there’s no need to worry, the milk secreted by each teat is adapted to the different ages of the young kangaroos!

Distinguishing features

The red kangaroo is the largest of the Marsupials. It belongs to the Macropodidae (“big feet”) family. Its muscular tail provides support for the kangaroo to lean on and acts as a pendulum when it is on the move. Its legs behave like springs: without expending too much energy, it can exceed 60 km/h while its successive jumps can reach as high as 3 m and as long as 9 m!


Intrigued by this strange animal, the first settlers turned to the aborigines for answers. “Kan gu-ru” was the answer… which actually means “I don’t understand!."

The red kangaroo is protected but it competes with cattle and hunting it is permitted by the State, who control it and set quotas. Its skin is used in the leather and fur industries. Its meat, which is high in protein and low in fat, is eaten by humans and is also used in animal feed.

Kangourou roux © MNHN - P. Roux
Jeune kangourou roux © MNHN - P. Roux