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Red kangarooRed Kangaroo

Order: Diprodontia-Possums, Koalas, Wombats, Kangaroos and wallabies

Family: Macropodidae – Kangaroos and wallabies

Scientific nameMacropus rufus


Description:  One of the largest species of kangaroos, a male’s head and body ranges from 4.3 to 5.3ft, with a tail 3.3 to 4ft long.  Females are about half the size with head & body length of 2.8 to 3.5ft, tail 2.1 to 2.8ft.  Sexes differ in color, with males being reddish brown and female’s bluish gray color.  Hair may be coarse to quite soft.  Muzzle is partly haired.  They have extremely powerful rear legs and tail, small arms, narrow chest and a small rabbit-like head.


RangeHome Range:  Central part of Australia except extreme North, East coast and extreme southwest.

Habitat type:  Grasslands.  They prefer open plains without trees or brush.


Reproductive habits:  They breed year round and have delayed implantation.  Soon after giving birth the female will breed again, the implanted ovum partially develops, waiting for the young in the pouch to become independent. The implanted ovum can survive 4 weeks, making it unnecessary for the female to copulate.  The advantage is that reproduction continues without much delay.  Gestation is 33 days and the young is born in a very undeveloped state (torso, head and forearms only).  It stays in the mothers pouch for approximately 235 days.  They weigh .75 grams (.026 ounces) at birth.  They crawl from the birth canal to the pouch without the assistance of the mother and grasp on to the mammae (nipple) which swells in their mouth to prevent separation.  They first release the nipple at 70 days, first produce their head from the pouch at 150 days, and they temporarily emerge at 190 days, and continue to suckle from both inside and outside the pouch.  Females are able to produce two different formulas of milk from different nipples to meet the varying nutritional needs of a newborn and an older baby.  They are weaned at 1 year.  Females mature at 15-20 months, males between 20-24 months.  Breeding males produce a powdery rose red substance from the region of the larynx & chest.  They will rub this on their backs with their hands.


Diet in Wild:  grass 


Diet in Zoo:  ADF 16 herbivore ration, apples, carrots, and other produce as available.

General Info:  Largest living marsupial.  Most often found in zoos and natural museums.  Many people think of this larger species of kangaroo first when referring to marsupials.  In Australia, they occupy the niche of the antelope, deer, zebra and bison in other countries.  They can achieve speeds of 48 kilometers per hour (30 mph) for short distances.  Their tail serves as a support and helps with balance and steering when leaping.  They can jump distances of 4 to 6 ft at a slow jump, and 45 ft in flight.  They can jump quite high, approximately 6 ft, but have difficulties with fences as kangaroos are found running along side the fence or get hung up in them.


This species was once listed as Threatened, but was delisted in the 1990’s. Agriculture has actually helped this species of kangaroo.  Although some smaller species have been harmed as a result of human development, agriculture has increased the habitat of the larger species of kangaroos.  The Red kangaroo is able to digest grasses that sheep do not eat. So as sheep farms increase, and available unsuitable (for sheep) forage increases, so do the numbers of Red kangaroos.  They graze side by side.


The biggest problems kangaroos face are drought, heat and hunger.  They have few predators, and they defend themselves with their powerful hind legs.  A kangaroo will back against a tree and kick.  A man is lucky if they only rip through clothing; their sharp claws can tear open skin and organs.  Two male kangaroos will fight (box) by holding on to each other with their arms and kick out with their hind feet.


Predators:  Dingo, pythons, wedge-tailed eagle, and dogs.



Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. Mammals I. 1975. Dr. H. C. Bernhard Grzimek. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, NY. pp 171-172.


Walkers Mammals of the World Vol I.  1999. Ronald M. Nowak. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. Pp 120-157.


Complete Book of Australian Mammals 1983. Ed. Ronald Strahan, Angus & Robertson Publishers, London, Sydney, Melbourne. pp 255-256.