A lot of people can confuse wallabies with kangaroos even though they are completely different species. They are quite similar, however, there are numerous differences between kangaroo species and the numerous wallaby species.

To begin with kangaroos are far larger than wallabies. There are also variations in the color of the two plus in their preferred habitat. In saying that there are also similarities between the species that are worth noting.


Similarities Between Kangaroos And Wallabies

Before we go into all the differences between kangaroos and wallabies, let’s first look at the similarities between the two.

  • Both kangaroos and wallabies belong to the same animal family – Macropodidae. This means that they’re both macropods which, according to the Greeks, means “big feet”.
  • Wallabies and kangaroos are also both marsupials. This means that their babies are born before they’re fully developed and continue their development and growth while in the mother’s pouch.
  • This means that both female kangaroos and wallabies have pouches.
  • Both kangaroos and wallabies are native to Australia.
  • Both of these animals use hopping as a means of getting around.
  • Wallabies and kangaroos cannot move their back legs independently and cannot move backwards.
  • Kangaroos and wallabies are both able to swim very well by dog paddling using all of their four legs. Swimming is the only time that kangaroos and wallabies are able to use their hind legs independently of each other.
  • Both kangaroo and wallaby babies are referred to as joeys.

Major Differences Between Kangaroos And Wallabies

Now that we understand what kangaroos and wallabies have in common, let’s look at the major differences between the two.

Kangaroos Are Much Larger

The first and most obvious difference is their size. Kangaroos tend to be much larger than wallabies. In fact, the red kangaroo is the largest marsupial in the world.

As a general guide, kangaroos can grow as tall as 6.5 feet (2 meters) and can reach a weight of around 198 pounds (90 kg). On the other hand, it’s uncommon for wallabies to reach a height of over 3 feet (1 meter) and they rarely weigh more than 44 pounds (20 kg).

This will give you a good idea whether you’re looking at a kangaroo or wallaby if you happen to see one in the wild.

Kangaroos And Wallabies Vary In Body Shape

When you look at a kangaroo, you’ll notice that their back legs look disproportionally large compared to their bodies. This is because there is a large distance between their knees and their ankles or, in other words, they have really big feet. And, there’s a good reason for this.

Kangaroos have to travel large distances in order to forage for food. For this, they need powerful legs and long feet in order to hop along over the vast country that they cover. Their large feet also allow them to cover this large amount of ground without expending too much energy.

In comparison, wallabies have much more compact legs and smaller feet. This is because they need to be far more agile as they tend to spend their days foraging in forests and over rocky escarpments.

Kangaroos And Wallabies Vary In Color

While kangaroos tend to have a very uniform coloring in their coat, wallabies often have more distinct markings. This is primarily due to their different habitats.

For example, kangaroos will be either gray or a reddish-brown color. On the other hand, wallabies tend to have at least three colors in their coat. For example, the red-necked wallaby has a whitish belly, red fur around the neck and shoulders, and gray fur on its back. This allows these animals to blend in better with their surroundings.

Kangaroos And Wallabies Have Different Types Of Teeth

Due to their difference in diet, kangaroos and wallabies also have different types of teeth. While kangaroos have curved teeth that allow them to cut through blades of grass, wallabies have much flatter teeth that they can use to grind up leaves.

It’s also interesting to note that while kangaroos tend to cast-off their premolars, wallabies do not. However, both species will replace their teeth during their lifetime. The reason for this is that the silica that’s contained in the grasses that they eat will eventually wear down the molars. When this happens, kangaroos and wallabies just grow new teeth to replace the ones that have fallen out.

Kangaroos And Wallabies Have Different Lifespans

Typically, wallabies do have a shorter lifespan than kangaroos. Their average lifespan is around 11 to 14 years. On the other hand, kangaroos can live for as long as 20 to 25 years.

They Live In Different Habitats

Although kangaroos and wallabies are both mainly found in Australia, they generally do not occupy the same areas. Kangaroos tend to favor open country where they can roam around in order to forage for food. You will most often see them grazing in open fields or pastures or lazing under large gum trees during the heat of the day.

Wallabies, on the other hand, can be found mostly in forested areas where they forage for food among the trees. There are also rock wallabies that inhabit rocky cliffs along the coastline and other mountainous areas around the country.

Because kangaroos prefers the open country, you will always find them in the center of Australia. The central areas are often dry and very open with a sparse collection of trees. In fact, the vastness of the Australian dessert is hard to imagine for someone who hasn’t seen it themselves.

It is in this vast and seemingly, barren landscape that kangaroos tend to thrive. Because they can travel long distances in a short amount of time, they’ve learned where to find both food and water. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t find kangaroos in other parts of the country.

Because farmers have created large pastures in areas between the coastal cities and towns, kangaroos have discovered that finding food in these areas is far easier than in the outback. And, because there are very few natural predators, kangaroo numbers have continued to increase.

In fact, there are twice as many kangaroos in Australia than there are people.

Unlike kangaroos, you’re unlikely to find wallabies in the central areas of Australia. These smaller and more agile animals much prefer to live in the wooded and mountain areas that are closer to the coastline.

There’s Also A Difference In The Total Number Of Species

While there are basically only four main species of kangaroos, there are around 30 different species of wallaby that are found in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The four species of kangaroo include:

  • Red kangaroo found mainly in central Australia
  • Western grey kangaroo found in the western part of Australia
  • Eastern grey kangaroo found around the eastern part of Australia
  • Antilopine kangaroo found in the northern tropical parts of Australia

The different species of wallabies include:

  • Rock wallaby found in rocky hills, sandstone outcrops and caves around the coastline
  • Agile wallaby found mostly in the southern parts of Australia
  • Red-necked wallaby also found in the southern parts of the country
  • Swamp wallaby found in wetland areas

And Then There Are Wallaroos

To confuse matters even further, there’s a different group of Australian marsupials called wallaroos. These are closely related to kangaroos and wallabies.

Wallaroos are halfway between kangaroos and wallabies when it comes to size. They can be found in most parts of Australia except Tasmania. Their preferred habitats include mountainous areas and steep escarpments.

Wallaroos eat a very similar diet to wallabies consisting mainly of soft grasses, leaves and shrubs. Amazingly, these animals can survive for up to 3 months without drinking water because they are able to get the water that they need from the foods that they eat.

In general, wallaroos can reach a height of around 5 feet (1.5 meter) and a weight of around 120 pounds (54 kg).

Final Thoughts

Although both kangaroos and wallabies share a number of similarities, there are also numerous differences between the two animals. They are both marsupials and regarded as macropods. Other shared traits include that they can’t move backwards and are unable to move their hind legs independently unless they’re swimming.

One of the major differences between kangaroos and wallabies is their size. Kangaroos are much larger and also have larger feet. Wallabies and kangaroos also don’t share the same habitat with kangaroos preferring the open plains while wallabies prefer more sheltered areas such as forests and caves.

While there are only 4 species of kangaroo in Australia, there are around 30 different species of wallabies that can be found right around the country. And, to make things even more confusing, there are also wallaroos that are halfway between a kangaroo and a wallaby, at least in size.

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