Kangaroo vs. Wallaby

What's the Difference?

Kangaroos and wallabies are both marsupials native to Australia. They belong to the same family, Macropodidae, and share many similarities in their physical appearance and behavior. However, there are a few key differences between the two. Kangaroos are generally larger in size, with males reaching heights of up to 6 feet and weighing over 200 pounds, while wallabies are smaller, with males averaging around 3 feet in height and weighing around 50 pounds. Kangaroos also have longer and stronger hind legs, which enable them to hop at high speeds and cover long distances, while wallabies have shorter legs and are more agile in dense vegetation. Additionally, kangaroos tend to live in open grasslands and woodlands, while wallabies are more commonly found in forests and shrublands. Despite these differences, both kangaroos and wallabies are iconic symbols of Australia's unique wildlife.


Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash
SpeciesVarious speciesVarious species
HabitatGrasslands, forests, desertsGrasslands, forests, deserts
SizeLargeSmall to medium
WeightUp to 200 lbsUp to 50 lbs
Jumping AbilityPowerful jumpersGood jumpers
BehaviorSocial, live in groupsSocial, live in groups
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Further Detail


Kangaroos and wallabies are both marsupials belonging to the Macropodidae family. They are native to Australia and are known for their unique hopping locomotion. While kangaroos and wallabies share many similarities, they also have distinct differences in terms of size, habitat, behavior, and physical attributes. In this article, we will explore these attributes and delve into the fascinating world of these iconic Australian animals.

Size and Physical Attributes

One of the most noticeable differences between kangaroos and wallabies is their size. Kangaroos are generally larger and heavier than wallabies. The red kangaroo, the largest kangaroo species, can reach heights of up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) and weigh over 200 pounds (90 kilograms). On the other hand, wallabies are smaller, with the average height ranging from 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meters) and weighing between 20 to 50 pounds (9 to 23 kilograms).

Another distinguishing feature is their physical attributes. Kangaroos have a more robust build with muscular legs and a powerful tail, which they use for balance while hopping. Their hind legs are adapted for long-distance hopping, allowing them to reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour). Wallabies, on the other hand, have a more slender and agile body structure, enabling them to navigate through dense vegetation and rocky terrains with ease.

Habitat and Distribution

Kangaroos and wallabies have overlapping habitats, but they tend to occupy different regions within Australia. Kangaroos are commonly found in open grasslands, woodlands, and scrublands. They are well-adapted to arid and semi-arid environments, such as the Australian Outback. Wallabies, on the other hand, prefer more densely vegetated areas, including forests, rainforests, and coastal regions.

Regarding distribution, kangaroos have a wider range compared to wallabies. Kangaroos can be found throughout mainland Australia, with some species even inhabiting Tasmania. Wallabies, on the other hand, are more localized and have specific species that are endemic to certain regions. For example, the rock wallaby is found in rocky areas, while the swamp wallaby is found in wetter coastal regions.

Behavior and Social Structure

Both kangaroos and wallabies are social animals, but their social structures differ. Kangaroos are known for their hierarchical social groups called mobs. These mobs can consist of up to 50 individuals, with a dominant male leading the group. Within the mob, kangaroos communicate through various vocalizations and body language, such as thumping their feet or boxing with their forelimbs.

Wallabies, on the other hand, are more solitary or live in smaller groups called colonies. They are generally less social than kangaroos and have a more territorial nature. Wallabies mark their territories using scent glands and communicate through vocalizations, such as barks or hisses, to establish dominance or warn others of potential threats.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Kangaroos and wallabies are herbivores, primarily feeding on vegetation. However, their diets may vary depending on their species and habitat. Kangaroos are mainly grazers, consuming grasses, shrubs, and low-lying vegetation. They have specialized teeth and a unique digestive system that allows them to efficiently extract nutrients from fibrous plant material.

Wallabies, on the other hand, have a more diverse diet, including grasses, leaves, fruits, and even bark. Some wallaby species are known to be browsers, feeding on higher vegetation and shrubs. They have sharp incisors that help them strip leaves and bark from trees. Wallabies are also known to exhibit coprophagy, a behavior where they consume their own feces to extract additional nutrients.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Both kangaroos and wallabies have a unique reproductive system characteristic of marsupials. Female kangaroos and wallabies have a pouch, known as a marsupium, where they carry and nurse their underdeveloped young, called joeys. After a short gestation period, the tiny joeys crawl into the pouch and attach themselves to a teat, where they continue to develop and grow.

Kangaroos have a longer gestation period compared to wallabies, ranging from 30 to 40 days. The joeys remain in the pouch for several months, gradually becoming more independent until they fully emerge. Wallabies, on the other hand, have a shorter gestation period of around 30 days, and the joeys spend a shorter time in the pouch before venturing out.


In conclusion, while kangaroos and wallabies share many similarities as marsupials, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. Kangaroos are larger, have a more robust build, and inhabit open grasslands, while wallabies are smaller, more agile, and prefer densely vegetated areas. Kangaroos exhibit hierarchical social structures, while wallabies are more solitary or live in smaller groups. Their diets and reproductive systems also differ to some extent. Both kangaroos and wallabies are fascinating creatures that contribute to the unique biodiversity of Australia, and studying their attributes helps us better understand and appreciate the natural world around us.

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