To look at a photo of a Kangaroo and a Wallaby, you may struggle to tell the two different animals apart. While there are a variety of species of each, from a distance, or in a photograph they can look very similar to the point of confusing one for the other. Where you are able to determine the dimension of height, it becomes easier, but even then, some young kangaroos can easily be mistaken for wallabies.
So if wallabies and kangaroos are so similar to look at, what are the differences exactly? And how do you tell them apart? Let’s take a look at some of the features of each to understand the similarities and the differences, in our wallaby vs kangaroo guide.
Wallaby Vs Kangaroo – Appearance
Kangaroos and Wallabies, being of the same family are very similar in appearance. But even across the specific species of each there are features that tell them all apart. They have similar body structure, head shape and features and behaviours. But when comparing a typical wallaby to a typical kangaroo, there are several differences that you can notice if you know what to look for:
- Size – In general, kangaroos are large animals, whereas wallabies are small to medium sized. Some wallabies can look very small standing next to the average kangaroo.
- Shape – Wallabies have more compact legs, useful for the wooded or rough terrain that they prefer. Kangaroos on the other hand have longer legs and a greater distance between knee and ankle. This is more suited to leaping around the clearer, flat grassland that they inhabit.
- Teeth – Wallabies teeth are flat from eating a more diverse range of plants, whereas a kangaroos teeth are more curved.
- Coat – The coat is a major way to tell a kangaroo apart from a wallaby. Kangaroos tend to have a more uniform coat of red, brown or grey. A wallaby may have several colors in their coat, giving them a salt and pepper, or ‘grainy’ appearance in their coat.
Similarities between the species include:
- Posture – Both species have long lower limbs and short forelimbs with small claws on the end. They both stand upright on their lower limbs, and may use their strong tail to create a kind of tripod for balance when still.
- Jump – Both animals jump to get around, though kangaroos can leap further. Some kangaroo jumps can travel up to 16 feet (5 metres) in one leap!
- Pouch – Both animals are marsupials, meaning pouched animals. In both cases, females have this pocket of skin called a pouch on the lower part of their stomach to carry their young.
Wallaby Vs Kangaroo – Size
Wallabies and Kangaroos are from the same macropodidae family of marsupials, but Kangaroos are classified as the the four largest species of macropods. As such, they are larger than wallabies.
Red Kangaroos are the largest, and males can grow up to 1.4 metres (4.6 feet) in body length and weigh up to 85 kilograms (187.4 pounds). Females measure 1.1 metres (3.6 feet) in length and weigh 35 kilograms (77.2 pounds). They also have very long tails which can measure 0.9 metres (3 feet) in length.
Depending on species, wallabies are small to medium sized animals whereby the largest can measure 6 feet (1.8 metres) in height from head to tail. Wallabies can weigh anywhere between 2 – 24 kilograms (4 – 53 pounds).
The large range in size and weight of the different species of wallaby can be understood when the origin of the name is realised. The name wallaby, is effectively an ‘informal designation’ that was brought into use to group together any macropod smaller than a kangaroo or wallaroo, but had no other formal designation.
Where Do Wallabies And Kangaroos Live?
Both the Kangaroo and the Wallaby are native to Australia and New Guinea. While populations of wallaby have been introduced elsewhere including New Zealand and the UK, they are not native to these countries.
Kangaroos inhabit different areas of Australia depending on the species. Red Kangaroos inhabit most of the dry inland of the central part of Australia in small groups called mobs. It prefers open plains where trees and bushes are scarce.
Antilopine kangaroos live along the Northern areas of Queensland, North Territory and Western Australia. The eastern grey kangaroo lives in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. Whereas the western grey kangaroo lives around the entire southern region of Australia.
Wallabies generally prefer more remote areas which are wooded or rugged rather than open arid plains that are more suited to larger, more flat footed kangaroos. Across the species of Wallaby, they can be grouped roughly by the habitat they prefer: shrub wallabies, brush wallabies, and rock wallabies.
What Do Wallabies And Kangaroos Eat?
Wallabies are herbivores and feed mainly on plants, vegetables and grasses. They have elongated faces and large flat teeth that are necessary to chew through vegetation. Some species of wallaby such as the Tammar wallaby live in areas where there is no fresh water supplies and have to reply on plant juices to satisfy their thirst, they can even drink salty sea water. In general, these smaller macropods appear to have a wider diet than their larger kangaroo species.
Kangaroos are also herbivores. All species are grazer and the majority of their diet is made up of grasses. The red kangaroo and western grey also eat a lot of shrubs and low hanging trees, where as the eastern grey and antilopine live mostly on grasses.
Lifespan Of A Wallaby Vs Kangaroo
There are varying accounts of how long a kangaroo lives in the wild. Some accounts put it as low as 8 years, but most suggest a life span of around 23 years in the wild, particularly for the red kangaroo. This is similar to the age they can reach in captivity, around 25 years.
Both east and west grey kangaroos live a little shorter in the wild, between 10 – 18 years on average, and the antilopine kangaroo has a similar lifespan.
The life span of a wallaby is around 9 years in the wild at low estimates, and between 11 – 14 years on average by most accounts. They have a significantly lower lifespan than their larger kangaroo cousins. In captivity they can live to around 15 years of age comfortably.
Wallaby Vs Kangaroo – Predators & Threats
There are few species that are a threat to the kangaroo. Their size and strength make them a difficult opponent for even the most ambitious predator. Though dingoes and wedge-tailed eagles are know to be brave enough to take on the challenge. Young kangaroos are more vulnerable, and can also fall prey to wild dogs and foxes.
The biggest threat to kangaroos though, comes from humans, and in particular roads. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 road accidents with animals across Australia, involves a kangaroo.
Wallabies, being smaller in size, are more vulnerable to a variety of different predators. Both domestic and wild dogs, feral cats and dingoes all pose a threat to wallabies. The red fox is also another major predator and the wedge-tailed eagle is always a threat. Road accidents are also common with wallabies.
In both cases, poaching by humans has also been a threat, and even before settlement by Europeans, aboriginal populations hunted both kangaroos and wallabies for a variety of reasons including food. Poaching is less of a problem today, and roads have become the greatest human threat to all macropods.