Kangaroos and Wallabies are both marsupials that are native to Australia. They share many visible characteristics such as large feet, strong legs, and the ability to carry their young in the pouch.
Although kangaroos and wallabies are in the same order, family, and subfamily, they are not the same animal.
Telling the difference between these two very similar animals can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Thankfully, there are some distinct differences that can help us differentiate between the two.
In this article, we will look at the differences between a kangaroo and a wallaby.
Let’s get started!
The Key Differences Between Kangaroos And Wallabies
Let’s begin by looking at the main differences between kangaroos and wallabies. Both of these animals have a variety of species so some of the differences can be less or more depending on the individual animal.
However, in general, these are the main differences to look out for.
This is usually the most obvious and easiest-to-spot difference because it’s something you can easily see with the naked eye.
If you were to ever see a kangaroo and a wallaby standing side by side, you would have no doubt which one is which.
In general, kangaroos are much taller than wallabies are. Kangaroos can grow to a height of eight feet tall and also weigh up to 200 pounds.
Wallabies, on the other hand, tend to only grow to just over three feet and have a weight of around 45 pounds.
The difference in the heights is especially evident in their legs, where kangaroos have a lot of the height held between their ankles and knees.
Kangaroos can often look out of proportion when you compare the length of their legs to the length of their bodies.
Kangaroos have these long legs as they help them move quickly. Kangaroos can very quickly hop across open terrain and it is because of the extra length of their legs.
Wallabies don’t move anywhere near as quickly as kangaroos and instead have more compact legs. Wallaby legs are designed to make them agile in forested areas instead of speedy in open spaces.
The coat colors of kangaroos and wallabies will differ from species to species but there are some general rules to look out for.
The color of a wallaby’s coat is usually brighter than that of a kangaroo’s and is often made up of two to three different colors and markings.
In contrast, the coat of a kangaroo is usually more uniform and doesn’t have as many color variations. A kangaroo coat is usually either brown or gray with little to no markings.
This is not one that you’re going to be able to spot with the naked eye unless you get really close to the animals and we do not recommend that!
As there are many variations in the kangaroo and wallaby species, there are occasions when it is difficult to tell them apart. In these cases, the only surefire way is to compare their teeth, and specifically their molars.
Although kangaroos and wallabies both eat a plant diet, they have evolved to eat in different habitats that have different types of plants and vegetable matter.
These differences are evident in how teeth have evolved to best suit the different plants and habitats.
Kangaroos mainly live in open terrain that doesn’t have many trees. They eat mainly leaves and grass and this has led to them evolving curved teeth.
The curves help the kangaroos to slice the stalks of grass open. Kangaroo molars also tend to have higher crowns than the ones evident in wallaby molars.
In contrast, wallabies live in green and bushy forests. Their diet mainly consists of grass, leaves, and fruits so the teeth of a wallaby are flatter.
Flat teeth allow wallabies to crush and grind their food. They don’t cut into their food as kangaroos do with their stalks of grass so the molars don’t need to have such pronounced crowns.
Wallabies do, however, have one cutting tooth in the top of their mouth just in case they ever do need to cut anything. Wallabies also keep their premolars but kangaroos lose theirs.
This is another one that you’re not going to be able to tell just by looking at the animal but it is still an important difference.
The lifespans of kangaroos and wallabies are quite different. Generally, wallabies have a much shorter lifespan than the larger kangaroo and typically only live for 11 to 14 years.
Kangaroos, on the other hand, can live for significantly longer and manage, on average, around 20 to 25 years.
There are even confirmed cases of wild kangaroos living up to 30 years, which is around twice the expected lifespan of a wallaby.
Similarities Between Kangaroos And Wallabies
Despite all of these differences, there are just as many similarities between the two animals for them to be commonly confused.
They both belong to the same family of macropods and marsupials and both live in Australia, although their terrains are a little different as we just discussed.
Although kangaroos are more powerful and faster jumpers than wallabies, both do have strong hind legs and jump around to move instead of walk.
Possibly their most obvious similarity, however, is how they carry their young. The gestation periods for kangaroos and wallabies are both very short and result in a very weak and fragile baby being born.
This is why both animals carry their young in a pouch after birth.
The babies, known as joeys, usually stay in the pouch and nurse from their mother’s milk for around nine months until they’re strong enough to leave the pouch.
In this article, we looked at the key differences between a kangaroo and a wallaby. We found that they differ in size, color, and lifespan, but one of their main differences is found in how their teeth have evolved.