The red kangaroo is the largest of the 61 species comprising the kangaroo and wallaby family, and stands up to 1.8 m (6 ft) tall on its hind legs. This marsupial mammal has a unique way of travelling. When grazing, it moves around slowly by supporting its body on its forelegs and tail and swinging its back legs forward: When moving fast however, it hops on its powerful back legs and can make single leaps of more than 9 m (30 ft).
This is a very efficient way of moving across rough terrain, and red kangaroos bounce along at speeds of up to 48 kph (30 mph) on their springy back legs, using much less effort than a running placental mammal of similar size.
Like other members of the family, red kangaroos have large bodies with a relatively small head, large ears, well-developed hind legs, huge feet and a long muscular tail. Males are usually a rich red-brown colour, while females are blue-grey.
Red kangaroos live in dry conditions and can live for long periods without water. They are able to survive on low-quality vegetation found in dry habitats, thanks to a digestion process that uses gut bacteria to help break down tough plant material. However, unlike other large species of kangaroos, reds usually move in search of better feeding conditions during droughts, sometimes travelling more than 200 km (125 miles). Red kangaroos are not territorial, but males will fight one another by boxing with their arms and kicking with their back legs, to win control of groups of females during the breeding season.
Living in hot, open countryside has shaped the biology and behaviour of red kangaroos. They only become active towards dusk and their fur is short, which helps them to stay cool. Their field of vision extends almost completely around the head, making it very difficult to approach them without being seen.
Distribution: Occurs across most of the interior of Australia, in arid countryside, but is absent from coastal areas in the north, south and east of the continent.
Habitat: Grassland and savannah with some cover.
Weight: 82 - 412 kg (37 - 187 lb); males are bigger.
Length: 1.3 - 2.9 m (4.3 - 9.5 ft).
Maturity: Females 14 - 20 months; males about 20 months.
Gestation Period: 33 - 34 days.
Breeding: 1; the joey spends around 235 days in the pouch.
Food: Herbivorous, grazing almost entirely on grass.
Lifespan: Up to 15 years in the wild; can be 18 in captivity.
These allow the kangaroo to bound along at high speed.
The heavy tail of these kangaroos measures over 1 m (3 ft) long in adults.
Red kangaroo runs with its head low and forelegs bent backwards.
In the pouch
The young joey suckles on one of its mother's teats within the pouch.