Taxonomy: Animalia; Chordata; Mammalia; Marsupialia; Diprotodontia; Macropodidae; Macropus; Macropus and Osphranter
Common Names: Kangaroo, gangurru, boomers, jacks, old men, bucks, does, flyers, jills, joeys, roos
Localities: Native to Australia. Some relatives in New Guinea.
One of the unique critters of Australia, A marsupial that is native to the Down Under and an infamous animal/symbol of Australia. Kangaroos belong to the Macropodidae family and consists of numerous species. The name comes from the Guugu Yimithirr word “gangurru” that is used by the Aboriginee for “Grey Kangaroos”. The term “kangaroo” was first used by Captain James Cook on the banks of the Endeavor River near “Cooktown” where the HM Bark Endeavor was beached on the Great Barrier Reef for seven weeks early August 1770. Some claim that Cook asked a aboriginee the name of this intriguing animals and the individual said “Kangaroo” which was interpreted through time to mean “I don’t understand you” but has since been proven to be a false myth according to linguist John Haviland in the 70’s. The males are called “boomers”, “jacks”, “old men”, and “bucks” while the females are called “does”, “flyers”, or “jills” and the infants are called “joeys”. When grouped together they are called a “mob”, “court”, or “troop” of kangaroo. They are often nicknamed “roos”. A mammal that is found throughout Australia it has a few related species that can be found in New Guinea as well, some of which are endangered. This amazing animal is important and endemic to Australia and its culture. They have been described by many Europeans as strange creatures that stand upright like humans, have a deer head without antlers, but hop around like frogs. They originally were seen as a myth until Australia became inhabited by Westerners who verified their existence. The first Kangaroo to be shot by a Westerner and exhibited to European culture was by one of Captain Cook’s officer’s by the name of John Gore in 1770. The Kangaroo’s iconography can be found on the currency, coat of Arms, emblems, and airlines. There are four main species: The Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) which is the largest existing marsupial in the world); The Eastern Gray Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus); The Western Gray Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus); and the Antilopine Kangaroo (Macropus antilopinus). The animla has large powerful hind legs adapted for leaping with a long tail for balance (only mammal known to use hopping for locomotion and clocked upwards of 20-25 to a max of 70 km/hour). The females of the species have a marsupial “marsupium” which is a pouch where the infants finish their post-natal development. Their average life span is 6 years in the wild and 20 years under captivity. They are an herbivore feasting primarily on grasses or shrubs yet unlike other herbivores do not release methane gas. Some smaller species feast on hypogeal fungi. A good percentage of them are nocturnal. They are known to have complex social structures and interactions with one another such as touching and sniffing one another. They usually mate in pairs. Female kangaroos are usually pregnant in permanence except the day of birth but can “freeze” the development of an embroyo until the current infant is ready to leave the pouch. The egg descends from the ovary to the uterus where it is fertilized and developes into a neonate that emerges within 33 days, with one young born at a time where it gestates in the pouch for upwards of 190-235 days until it can leave the pouch. Before copulation the male monitors the female, sniffs her urine, follows her every move, approaches her slowly and if not scaring the female will paw, lick, and scratch at her before engaging copulation. After a long intercourse and consort pairing that can take several days, the male moves on to another female. Male aggression between one another occurs frequently and usually results in “boxing” matches. These fights can be brief or long and ritualized usually involving fighting over a woman or a feeding/drinking spot. Sometimes punching, grabbing of the opponent’s neck, locking of forearms, and wrestling will take place until one of them breaks off and retreats from the fight. Their sharp hindlegs can dis-embowel an opponent. Oddly, after the fight, the males often scratch and groom one another. They are often shy and curious about humans. During a disease in 2004 that was similar to “rabies”, there were a few unprovoked attacks on humans by kangaroos. In 2003, an Eastern Grey kangaroo alerted a farmer’s family to his location after he was injured by a fallen tree branch. This Kangaroo received a National Animal Valor award in 2004 for this feat. Outside of humans and dingos, Kangaroos have few predators still alive. Sometimes foxes, dogs, and feral cats can threaten kangaroos. They were once hunted by the (now extinct) thylacine, marsupial lion, Megalania, and the Wonambi. Kangaroos are a menace to vehicles especially at night similiar to incidents in North America with “Deer” or “antelope”. They become dazzled by the headlights and car noises often causing them to leap out in front of the travelling vehicle causing a severe impact that can destroy small vehicles and damage sufficiently larger ones. Kangaroos that are hit along the roadside as “road kill” have their pouches checked for “joeys” and often a large spray-painted red “X” is put on the kangaroo to denote that the pouch has been checked.
Kangaroo is used for hide, leather, fur, cooking, and meat. Kangaroos are not farmed for meat, but are hunted for meat, hides, sport, and to regulate grazing lands. The meat of the kangaroo has numerous health and environmental benefits over traditional meats and described as having a stronger wild meat flavor.
See our culinary and article about Kangaroo Meat here: http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=2218.
The tender meat is very high in protein and low in fat (less than 2%), has a very high concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is well known to be anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetes, reduces obesity, and atherosclerosis.
Folklore and Magical Uses:
Traditionally it was used by the Aboriginees for meat, bone, and tendons. The scrotum was sometimes stuffed as a ball for the football game of “marngrook”.
Article/research by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie.com – August 2011.
From the Australian National Museum display: “To compare it with any European animal would be impossible as it has not the least resemblance of any one I have seen. ~ Joseph Banks, 1771”. Sydney Parkinson, artist on the Endeavor, made the first European sketches of kangaroos. In London, George Stubbs based his paintings on Parkinson’s sketches and an inflated kangaroo skin brought to him from Australia on the Endeavor. “
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