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Few people dislike the kangaroo, that rather goofy-looking marsupial that bounds about on its hind legs around open spaces in Australia. Well, some people might fear them. People who own dogs in those places might have concern that kangaroos can kill or otherwise seriously hurt dogs.
Do kangaroos kill dogs? Yes, kangaroos can kill a dog. Most notably, when chased by predators, kangaroos are known to lead pursuers into water, and then use their forelegs to tightly grasp and then sink the foe underwater to drown. Kangaroos also could use their strong hind legs or sharp claws to cause serious injuries or even death.
However, in reality, the question should be “Will kangaroos kill dogs?” Then the answer is: very rarely.
The main reasons are that kangaroos and people with pet dogs rarely come in contact with one another. Secondly, kangaroos by nature are defensive animals and tend to flee when threatened. A ‘roo would have to be cornered pretty badly to go on the offensive and attack back.
A known way kangaroos have killed dogs is by luring them to a pond or creek, or body of water behind a dam, and then drowning them.
Kangaroos Can Be Big, But Are (Mostly) Passive
Kangaroos are marsupials, animals that share the main characteristic of having a pouch to carry their young. Males can easily reach, and sometimes exceed, the height of humans. They come in a variety of sizes, with the largest being the red kangaroo ~ which is what most westerners envision them to look like.
Kangaroos are fairly plentiful in Australia. However, they still do not have natural, consistent contact with human beings. Those encounters typically occur when humans penetrate into the wild, like for camping, off-roading, or general exploring.
Still, again, remember that kangaroos are known to be passive, and defensive in nature. If confronted, they will bound away if possible. They are herbivores, and as such do not have the instincts to chase or hunt other animals and kill them for food.
Leave an Escape Route for Kangaroos
The only time they might cause trouble is if they get trapped without an escape option. In such cases, they can apply defensive tactics, like standing tall on its big hind legs, and holding its “fists” upward like a boxer. Then can flex those forelegs and puff out their chest, to appear bigger.
They are decently quick in foot speed, and can hop over sizable objects, so they don’t tend to get cornered often. However, they cannot move straight backward (they have a huge, very strong tail in the way), limiting escape-action options. With dogs, especially if there is more than one, they can tend to herd another animal, which causes problems for ‘roos as outlined in this article.
Kangaroos are not necessarily “fraidy cats,” avoiding people so fully that they hide and are rarely seen. However, it still is rare for a human to get overly close to one. Not so with dogs, which can run faster than humans, get up close and personal with a kangaroo, and make terrifying barks that can confuse and frighten ‘roos.
When Dogs and Kangaroos Encounter Each Other
Dogs are curious animals and as such will pretty much go at least sniff any other animal that invades it’s immediate proximity. Pet dogs are also protective of their owners, and other pet dogs, so their behavior when encountering other types of animals can be unpredictable.
We all know the dog that, once an unusual living creature is cornered, will bark incessantly at it, as if to tell us this thing is unusual, or to use noise to intimidate. Ever have a dog in your back yard that won’t stop barking? Usually there’s a reason.
The problem is, kangaroos are strong, have sharp claws (very big on hind legs, and even sharp little ones on their little forelegs), and over time have adapted savvy ways to stop potential predators. These are the 3 most common ways:
- Lure into water. Here, kangaroos are known to use their forelegs to tightly grasp a predator, and then sink it underwater to force drowning.
- Gouge. Big kangaroos can use those forelegs to hold a predator in a headlock, or other type of grasping maneuver, then use those big sharp hind-leg claws to gouge or even disembowel an attacking animal.
- Kick. Those hind legs are very strong, and can be fast enough to strike a blow to kill an attacker, or thrust out the claws at the end of the hind legs so fast that they slice open an aggressor.
Kangaroo claws have caused serious cuts and gashes on humans over the years, but it is very, very rare for one to kill a person.
While there are dogs in the wild that may group together to attack kangaroos, the marsupials are very plentiful where they live and in reality have very few predators. There used to be several, but most became extinct over time. The biggest predators today?
Man, and cars. Kangaroo deaths by mishap with moving automobiles is a problem in Australia. Sadly, while they know how to fight back against the living predators they have faced for thousands of years, there is little they can do about big metal objects traveling faster than they ever could.
Kangaroo Temperament Can Be Influenced by Timing, and Their Sex
Not all confrontations with kangaroos are the same. Two things could change how they react: whether or not they are large males, and whether it is mating season.
Large male kangaroos during mating season can be quite intimidating, and could prove more aggressive as testosterone is high for fighting other ‘roos for mating rights.
However if you are out in the wild with your dog, it most likely will not be easy to tell if the animal is a male or female, or what time of year it is mating-wise. Just understand that if you come across a very large kangaroo, the best practice is to avoid them the best you can.
They might appear cuddly in all the photos you’ve seen, but per the information above, sometimes they can be quirky or unpredictable.
How to Know When to Move Away from Kangaroos
If a kangaroo assumes a boxing-like stance, it’s wise to back off. Standing high on its hind legs and strong tail is its defensive stance, and taking on a physical fight with large kangaroos is ill-advised. These animals are much stronger than humans. Just move away; they only become aggressive to those being aggressive to them. Give it wiggle room, and the kangaroo will take it to escape, by instinct.
Final Thoughts on Kangaroos and Dogs
We all know dogs will chase other animals they see if roaming freely. In Australia, canine owners should be aware that an unfortunate situation could develop where a dog could get injured or even killed if it somehow traps a kangaroo and leaves it no escape.
Kangaroos being aggressive with dogs is rare, and even more so with humans. They are non-aggressive, defense-first animals that very rarely come in direct contact with humans or domestic dogs.
They have a strong instinct, like a lot of herbivores around the world, to jump into water when threatened. It’s not an instinct developed to lure and kill other animals ~ kangaroos don’t eat other animals ~ but one taken with hope they won’t be followed in. Don’t let your dog jump into a body of water with a large kangaroo.
For the very careful dog owners out there, just understand where you are bringing your pooch. If in doubt about whether kangaroos might lurk nearby, keep your pet on a leash or otherwise locked up. And remember the key piece of information: don’t trap a kangaroo. Walk away, and it will hop off.
Question: Can kangaroos be domesticated and kept as pets?
Answer: Yes, and they are. Kangaroos come in all types of sizes, and especially the smaller breeds have been known to be domesticated. Are they as fun to have around as dogs? Let’s just say that very, very fewer kangaroos are kept as pets than dogs.
Q.: If domesticated, how do kangaroos act as pets compared with dogs?
A.: As with dogs, it can depend much on the personality and temperament of the type of ‘roo, as well as the individual animal. One thing recently learned is kangaroos are like dogs in the way canines bark, whine or growl to get our attention: kangaroos can learn to communicate with people, according to a 2020 study on kangaroos.
Q.: Are kangaroos dangerous to human beings?
A.: Not so much in terms of face-to-face confrontations, but perhaps in automobile collisions. Big kangaroos can cause significant damage to a car, and stop them fast enough to injure the auto’s occupants. “Kangaroo Crossing” signs are a fairly common sight on Australian highways and rural roads. One statistic says a great majority of auto mishaps in Australia involve a kangaroo, to give you an idea about this problem. They get quite confused by headlights in the dark, and sometimes even jump directly into the path of oncoming vehicles.
Q.: Do humans purposely kill kangaroos?
A.: Yes, much like wild game in other countries, there are hunters who chase kangaroos for sport, or for their meat. As with other countries, there are regulations to be careful not to negatively impact herds and breeds, but for the most part where kangaroos live, they thrive overall. While there always are illegal kangaroo hunters out there, these animals are in no danger of becoming extinct.