There’s just something about the wild species found in the Land Down Under: they seem to be weirder, deadlier and more unique than their brethren on the other six continents! There’s science to back that up, too. Australia is home to many species found nowhere else on earth, and among those, many of the deadliest known to humankind. And though the Kangaroo (Macropus) aren’t especially deadly animals, they are wild creatures who can be aggressively territorial. Typically growing anywhere from 40 to 200 pounds and equipped with amazingly strong legs, they can also be quite formidable. Yet none were so formidable as Big Jake, the largest kangaroo ever caught in Australia.
Typical Kangaroo Size
Macropus, the genus encompassing all species of kangaroo, is Latin for “big foot.” We can only call that an appropriate moniker, considering adult kangaroos locomote using huge, hulking hops — up to 30 feet in length, 10 feet high, and at a speed of up to 40 miles per hour. Depending on the particular species of kangaroo (there are red, eastern gray, western gray and antilopine kangaroos), an individual adult male will grow to a final size of three to eight feet and weigh anywhere from 40 to 200 pounds.
The Largest Kind of Kangaroo
Kangaroos are the largest marsupials (mammals with pouches) in the world. The Eastern Gray Kangaroo is the heaviest species, while the Red Kangaroo is the largest, growing up to six feet in height! Approximately half of a kangaroo’s body mass is muscle. And when you look at a truly “buff” male kangaroo, you can see the truth in this! You can’t help but notice their big, muscular, veined haunches. Then there’s those fat, powerful tails, upon which they can balance their whole weight, even while kicking with all their might. Some truly well-developed specimens of adult male red kangaroo have what you might call a six-pack: a rippling, segmented abdomen. They also possess powerful pectoral muscles, which, like weightlifting champions, they flex to intimidate and attract. Red ‘roos ready to rumble will even pound their chests, as confrontational as UFC contenders.
Big Jake, the Largest Kangaroo Ever Caught
Born a wild kangaroo, Big Jake is the largest individual of his species on record. Wildlife authorities, who observe and sometimes relocate kangaroos for their health and safety, couldn’t miss one adult male looming over his peers. We mentioned that six feet is the typical ceiling for a male red kangaroo.
Big Jake was nearly seven feet tall. He was also tipping the scales at around 210 pounds in weight. You’ve heard the term “kangaroo boxing”? It isn’t just a cartoon. Kangaroos really do box, for territory, dominance or in competition for a mate. And Big Jake was the Rocky of his kangaroo troop, a fierce, muscular and dominant fighter.
Interestingly enough, when wildlife authorities relocated him to a wildlife sanctuary, he was known for being friendly and docile with park visitors. The researchers who studied him determined his size was a product of diet and genetics.
Big Jake was born in 2001, and passed in 2013 at the age of 12.
Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t build muscle on a vegetarian diet! The red kangaroo is the exemplar of this concept. Though they like to box, they don’t do any hunting, opting instead for an herbivorous lifestyle.
Red kangaroos are well-adapted to the hot, harsh conditions of life in Australia. They can survive for many days without water, getting sufficient hydration from the plant matter they ingest. They have teeth especially evolved to grind down even the stiffest vegetable matter, extracting every last available morsel of energy, liquid and nutrition.
Red kangaroos live in groups known as mobs. They can be comprised of just a handful of ‘roos, or more than 100. Most of the mob will be mother kangaroos and their young, with only a handful of males siring joeys with multiple females.
Competition for mates is therefore an inherent part of the male kangaroo social structure. This means that the largest males are evolutionarily rewarded — making size a successful Darwinian trait amidst male ‘roos over time.
Are Kangaroos Threatened?
Kangaroos are not especially endangered, but they do face threats, mostly from human beings. They occasionally get hit by cars, displaced by new development, or are forced to compete with livestock for vegetable matter to graze. Kangaroos have also historically been hunted for meat and hides. This still occurs in Australia, but only under strict regulation when a ‘roo population is growing too quickly and requires culling.
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