Photo: Young eastern gray kangaroo peers from its mother's pouch

A young eastern gray kangaroo, known as a joey, peers from its mother's pouch.

Photograph by Nicole Duplaix

Map

Map: Eastern gray kangaroo range

Eastern Gray Kangaroo Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Herbivore
Average life span in the wild:
8 to 10 years
Size:
Up to 7 ft. (2.1 m)
Weight:
Up to 120 lbs (54 kg)
Group name:
Mob
Did you know?
A gray kangaroo can hop along at speeds of over 35 mi (56 km) an hour.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Eastern Gray Kangaroo compared with adult man

Gray kangaroos roam the forests of Australia and Tasmania and prefer to live among the trees, though they do take to open grasslands for grazing.

Gray kangaroos, red kangaroos, and wallaroos are called the great kangaroos because they are so much larger than the nearly 70 other kinds of kangaroos.

Gray kangaroos hop along on their powerful hind legs and do so at great speed. A gray kangaroo can reach speeds of over 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour and travel for long distances at 15 miles (24 kilometers) an hour. Their bounding gate allows them to cover 25 feet (8 meters) in a single leap and to jump 6 feet (1.8 meters) high.

Females have one baby at a time, which at birth is smaller than a cherry. The infant immediately climbs into its mother's pouch and does not emerge for two months. Until they reach about 10 or 11 months of age, threatened young kangaroos, called joeys, will quickly dive for the safety of mom's pouch. As they grow, joeys' heads and feet can often be seen hanging out of the pouch.

Larger male kangaroos are powerfully built. Like many species, male kangaroos sometimes fight over potential mates. They often lean back on their sturdy tail and "box" each other with their strong hind legs. Kangaroos can also bite and wield sharp claws, which they may do in battle with an enemy, such as a dingo.

Gray kangaroos gather in groups called "mobs." Aboriginal and European Australians have spent centuries clearing open tracts of land and establishing water sources—both of which are boons to kangaroo populations. Many millions of these animals roam Australia, and considerable numbers are killed each year for their skins and meat, which is becoming a more popular human food.

Mammal Features

  • Photo: Close-up of an African lion

    Animal Conservation

    Find out what National Geographic Society is doing to save animals all over the world, and learn what you can do to help.

  • hawaiian-monk-critter-cam.jpg

    Crittercam Helps Study Rare Species

    The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the oldest species of seal on the planet. But their tenure in paradise is perilously close to its end; only about 1,100 seals remain in the wild.

  • Masai Mara Lion

    Lions Quiz

    The king of cats rules with a roar and a fierce bite. What else do you know about this top predator?

  • Photo: Lion bares his teeth

    Cause an Uproar

    Big cats are quickly disappearing. Now is the time to act. Cause an uproar to save big cats today.

Please select a test to run

Animals

From the Magazine

  1. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.

  2. Photo: Silent Ural owl

    Estonia's Ural Owls

    Photographer Sven Začek provides an intimate view of this large raptor.