Kangaroo vs Wallaby Differences between a Kangaroo and Wallaby

wallaby vs kangaroo

Photo: Wallaby vs Kangaroo

The most significant differences between wallabies and kangaroos are body size, the relative size of their legs and arms, diet, teeth, fur and habitat.

Wallabies and kangaroos are both hopping marsupials known as macropods. Being macropods, they both have triangular bodies, an upright posture, two disproportionately large hind legs and feet, small forelimbs and a large thick tail. Their primary means of moving about is by hopping.

The key differences between the two are outlined in more detail below.


Size

Photo: Kangaroo

Photo: Wallaby

The most noticeable difference between a wallaby and kangaroo is size. By an arbitrary definition, the four largest macropods are referred to as kangaroos. Then there are wallaroos which are an intermediate size between the kangaroos and the wallabies. Hence the name "walla-roo". The next group of macropods by size are wallabies.

So a wallaby is basically an animal that’s smaller than a kangaroo and wallaroo. But to confuse things a bit further, their sizes may overlap.


Habitat

Wallabies prefer heavily wooded and rugged areas. Rock wallabies live in boulder-strewn areas with cliffs with ledges and caves, and isolated rock stacks. The agile wallabies live in dry open woodland, heaths, dunes and grassland. Very few wallabies live in the dry, arid interior of the continent.

Photo: Wallaby Mother and Joey

Photo: Kangaroos grazing

Kangaroos live in temperate to hot climates. The red kangaroo lives in the arid and semi-arid interior of Australia. The eastern grey kangaroo lives in more moist scrub-lands of eastern, southern and south-western Australia. The western grey kangaroo lives in grasslands and open woodland of the southern parts of Australia and . The antilopine kangaroo lives in topical woodlands in Australia, where there is grass beneath the forest canopy.


Body

Legs

A kangaroo is built for speed and for travelling long distances on open terrain, so its hind legs are relatively longer between the ankles and knees compared to a wallaby which usually prefers forested areas where it needs agility more than speed to navigate through its forest habitat.

Teeth

Photo: Kangaroo and Wallaby jaws

A scientific way to differentiate the two is to examine their teeth. The wallaby, which lives in forests and feeds predominately on leaves, has flat grinding molars (back teeth) with flat crowns and smaller front cutting teeth. On the other hand, The kangaroo, which feeds mostly on grasses, has more pronounced front cutting teeth, and its back teeth have curved crowns with ridges better suited for cutting and shearing grass. Also, the wallaby keeps its premolars while the kangaroo sheds its.

Fur

Wallabies tend to be slightly furrier than kangaroos.


Diet

Photo: Wallaby eating leaves

Wallabies eat mostly leaves, but they also eat flowers, ferns, moss and even insects.

Kangaroos eat mostly grass. Some, like the Red Kangaroo, also eat the leaves and shrubs.

Both types of animals prefer to feed at night but also graze early in the morning and late evening when it's cool. They rest in the shade during the day.


Can Kangaroos and Wallabies Mate?

In the wild, kangaroos and wallabies do not mate with each other. Humans have attempted to interbreed the two, but the results have been unsuccessful. Where there have been live births, the offspring have usually been sterile and not capable of reproducing themselves.