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Can Kangaroos Walk Backwards? (Myth or Fact?)

can kangaroos walk backwards

Can Kangaroos Walk Backwards? (Myth or Fact?)

Kangaroos are, without a doubt, one of the most athletic creatures in the animal kingdom. Their jumping on the wide-open plains across Australia leaves no one indifferent.

Yet, for many people, the question of whether kangaroos can walk in reverse. So, can kangaroos walk backwards?

Kangaroos can’t jump or walk backwards because of their big feet and long tails, making it impossible to move in reverse. Also, kangaroos are unable to move each leg independently, which makes it even more challenging for them to travel backwards.

Why Can’t Kangaroos Walk Backwards?

Kangaroos are extraordinary animals, with their most unique feature being their powerful hind legs and tails, which allow them to hop insane distances. 

However, when it comes to walking backwards, kangaroos’ anatomy carries some challenges.

Unlike many other animals, kangaroos are not able to rotate or move their hind legs independently from each other. In other words, they need to pivot their entire body around in order to change direction. 

Furthermore, their lengthy tails serve as a counterbalance, assisting them while hopping forward but making it difficult for them to move in backwards.

Lastly, kangaroos have large Z-shaped back legs specifically designed for hopping in a forward direction.

So, while kangaroos’ feet and a tail are the main tools for effective movement forward, these are also the main reasons for the impossibility of walking and hopping backwards.

Can Kangaroos Walk Normally?

Even though their primary mode of transportation is hopping on their hind legs, kangaroos can walk forward in a specific crawl-walking way.

The crawl-walking method, or walking on all four limbs, might not be as glamorous as hopping, but it’s a useful way for kangaroos to move around when grazing in grasslands or simply when moving slowly.

When walking on all four limbs, a kangaroo adopts a unique tripod posture. This involves leaning on the ground with its front legs while its tail supports its body weight, forming a stable base for movement.

To propel itself forward, a kangaroo swings its hind legs forward and repeats the process, moving at a relatively slow pace compared to its characteristic hopping gait. 

Is this considered normal walking? Well, it depends on your definition of normal walking.

However, if you have wondered if kangaroos can walk the same way humans do – the answer is no. Kangaroos’ feet and tails are simply too large, and they hop as the primary way of locomotion.

Why Do Kangaroos Hop Instead of Walk?

The main reason kangaroos hop instead of walking lies in evolution.

The great ancestor of kangaroos, which resembled today’s opossum, used to live on trees in Australia. Its legs were adapted for climbing treetops but were not efficient for walking on the ground. Hence, this animal started to use hopping as its primary means of locomotion.

Over time, kangaroos ultimately evolved into animals that can hop, which is now a highly effective mode of movement. Interestingly, while this type of movement seems to drain a lot of energy, it is actually incredibly energy efficient, allowing kangaroos to conserve energy while traveling.

As a result, kangaroos primarily use bouncing as their primary means of travel, which enables them to cover long distances in search of food with minimal effort.

Can Kangaroos Run?

Kangaroos don’t technically run – kangaroos hop. The hopping movement is also known as saltation, and the maximum speed they can is about 44 mph (71 kph).

However, they can comfortably hop at speeds of 13 to 16 mph (21 to 26 kph) over longer distances. At higher speeds, kangaroos can travel over 25 feet (7.6 meters) in one leap.

But what makes kangaroos such fantastic jumpers? 

Well, it’s all in their genetics. More than 50% of a kangaroo’s total weight comprises muscles, with the majority located around the pelvis and hind legs. 

As a result, these super-strong hind legs enable them to jump continuously at high speeds without expending much energy.

What Are Some Other Animals That Can’t Walk Backwards?

Besides kangaroos, there are few other animals that can’t walk backwards.

  • Emus – these flightless birds from Australia are known for their fast running, but due to their knee joints, emus are not capable of walking backwards.
  • Penguins – while moving, a penguin technically uses a waddle rather than walking. In essence, they are neither able to walk forward nor backward. However, these cute seabirds can waddle backward.
  • Alligators – have two main ways of locomotion; “belly-crawling” and “high walk”. The high walk is commonly used in situations when the alligator is moving faster, and in that walking position, an animal can walk backwards. However, when its body is touching the ground, an alligator is unable to walk backwards.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, kangaroos cannot walk or jump backwards due to their unique anatomy, which includes their large feet, long tail, and inability to move each leg independently. 

And while they may not be able to walk like humans, kangaroos have adapted their movement style to their environment and are able to crawl-walk on all four limbs when necessary.

Ultimately, kangaroos don’t really need to walk backwards because their hopping motion is so energy-efficient and enables them to travel great distances almost effortlessly.

Thank you for reading. If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy another popular article on Kangaroo Strength.

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