Can Kangaroos Swim?

Kangaroos are a type of marsupial that are very well known for their high ground speed and hopping ability. But what are they like on different terrains, like in water?

Well, most people would automatically assume, due to their small forelimbs, that they wouldn’t be able to swim well, or even at all! But kangaroos can indeed swim, and quite well I may add.

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They can swim at decently high speeds and will do so when crossing rivers or trying to catch prey. 

Though their forelimbs are indeed quite weak in comparison to their back legs, they do an excellent job in keeping a kangaroo balanced and stabilized whilst in the water.

They then use their back legs to dog paddle movements which allows them to swim strongly and powerfully.  

We’re going to go into a bit more detail about how and why kangaroos swim in this article, to hopefully give you a better understanding surrounding kangaroos. 

How Do Kangaroos Swim?

As we all know, kangaroos are native to Australia, which is known for its dry grasslands and plain land, this is because the family kangaroos belong to, the macropodidae, much prefer these conditions.

Macropods tend to be pretty bad swimmers overall, but we already know that kangaroos are an exception to this rule. 

Kangaroos started developing their ability to swim as a defense against predators. If a kangaroo is being chased by a predator, it will much prefer to go to the water where it’s usually impossible for them to get caught. 

In the water kangaroos will swim by moving their legs independently, which is quite surprising since when we see them on land we hardly ever see them move their legs independently, i.e. walking, since they much prefer to hop around. 

When they’re in the water, their legs become much more supported by the buoyant force which allows them to paddle their legs much more quickly and powerfully.

Since they have quite big feet too, their feet allow them to push a big amount of water with each paddle and this allows them to swim at quite high speeds. 

Why Do Kangaroos Swim?

As A Defense Mechanism

Kangaroos don’t really like going in the water, but when they have to, they will, especially when they’re in life threatening situations. Kangaroos will often take to the water to escape predators that may be chasing them, like dogs or dingoes. 

Young kangaroos also show initiative when swimming, proving that it comes naturally to them. They know to keep their heads up above the surface and not to inhale any water and then they paddle along to ensure smooth swimming.

To Heal Themselves

When we get bitten by bugs or other insects, taking a nice shower or bath usually soothes the inflammation and irritation and it’s the exact same for kangaroos.

Most kangaroos suffer from constant attacks from mosquitoes and ticks and wounds and scratches from other animals in the wild(see also: Why Most People Choose To Ignore Wild Animal Suffering). This of course can make their skin very irritated and inflamed and makes them more prone to skin infections. 

This is why kangaroos will often go for a dip, it helps them to clean themselves and take a new, refreshing bath away from the stress of the wild.

They will thoroughly clean any wounds or scratches to avoid any infections and it also gives them relief from any irritation or inflammation they may be experiencing from bug bites.

Will Water Go Into The Pouch Of A Kangaroo?

Since we now know that a kangaroo can swim, you’re probably wondering what happens if a mother carrying a joey decides to take a swim. 

If you didn’t already know, a female kangaroo will carry her baby in her pouch, and this baby is called a joey, and of course if they do swim then there is a risk that the baby could in fact drown. 

This is the biggest reason why most females carrying a joey in their pouch will avoid swimming altogether. But of course, in a moment of life or death, female kangaroos have been seen going into the water to swim to avoid being hunted by predators.

And surprisingly enough, the joey wasn’t wet at all when they emerged back out of the water. 

Researchers have studied this and explained that the reason the joey didn’t get wet was because kangaroos have such strong muscles in their pouch that completely seals it from water being able to enter.

But, this can only happen when a joey is below a certain age, anything over that age then the mother won’t be able to seal the pouch completely and the joey can then drown. 

Unfortunately, due to this, female kangaroos won’t always have the option to escape any predators by making their way to the water, in fear of their joey drowning.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, kangaroos are able to swim and they’re quite efficient swimmers at that!

They’re able to swim by utilizing all of their limbs, including their forelimbs and dog paddle through the water, using their big feet to propel themselves forward.

Though kangaroos don’t really like to swim, they’ll do so in order to escape predators or even just to clean themselves from bug bites or wounds or scratches from other predators.

This allows them to avoid infection and to simply give them relief from any irritation that may occur. 

Female kangaroos can also go into the water, even with a joey in their pouch. This is due to the muscles in their pouch being strong enough to completely seal the pouch and doesn’t allow any water to enter, keeping the joey safe. That is some amazing evolution for sure.

But this can only be done if the joey is of a certain age, once the joey has developed more, the female kangaroo is unable to seal the pouch which means the joey can drown if it’s submerged.

This is why female kangaroos will tend to stay away from the water, even if a predator is chasing them. 

Olivia Kepner