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Are Kangaroos Smart? Assessing Their Intelligence

Jacked Kangaroos

When we think of kangaroos, we often imagine their adorable faces and their strong, muscular legs that allow them to hop as far as three times their body length. But what about their brains? Are kangaroos able to apply their intelligence in the same way they do their physical skills? 

Surprisingly, kangaroos are indeed intelligent creatures, with cognitive abilities that have been shown to rival those of other well-known animals such as primates and dolphins. 

From using their powerful memories to navigate their habitats to displaying social intelligence by recognizing other kangaroos by their calls, these marsupials are definitely not just cute faces and tough fighters. So, let’s dive deeper into the fascinating world of kangaroo intelligence and see just how smart these hopping creatures really are!

Are Kangaroos Smart

Are Kangaroos Smart?

Kangaroos showcase a notable level of intelligence, as evidenced by their ability to establish communication with humans to acquire food and employ strategic tactics, such as luring predators into the water for self-defence. Unfortunately, these marsupials are often misunderstood, with misconceptions arising from their tendency to jump in front of cars and freeze when confronted by bright headlights.

However, this behaviour is not indicative of their intelligence but rather a natural response to being temporarily blinded by the intense lights. Due to their hopping locomotion, kangaroos exhibit caution when leaping into unfamiliar territories where landing spots are not clearly visible. Additionally, they lack the ability to move in reverse, making such situations challenging for them.

While it is true that kangaroos may not rank as the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom, it is crucial to acknowledge that they are non-domesticated animals with unique traits that distinguish them from other wildlife. Their cognitive capabilities and adaptive behaviours showcase a level of intelligence that should not be underestimated.

Through dedicated research and the keen observations of wildlife enthusiasts, we have gained valuable insights into the captivating world of kangaroos. These studies have shed light on their intelligence and resourcefulness, enabling us to better comprehend and appreciate these remarkable beings.

What Makes Kangaroos Smart Animals?

Diving into the Cognitive Capacities of Gigantic Marsupials: Exploring Communication, Defense Strategies, and Social Intelligence

buff animals

Kangaroos Can ‘Communicate’ With Humans

Now, I understand that some of you may be eagerly wondering, “Do kangaroos communicate like parrots?” Well, the answer is no. Kangaroos are not capable of talking. However, they do communicate with humans in a manner similar to our domesticated dogs and cats, despite being less domesticated themselves.

To support this notion, a team of scientists conducted an experiment involving approximately 10 kangaroos housed in an enclosed environment within an Australian zoo. Since these kangaroos were partially domesticated, there was no risk of harm to the researchers. The experiment involved locking the kangaroos in with a box of food and a solitary researcher. As time passed and the kangaroos struggled to retrieve the food, they resorted to seeking assistance. The researcher reported that the kangaroos gestured by looking back and forth between him and the box, eventually even gently stroking his hands and legs.

Kangaroo kicking human

These remarkable findings shed light on the higher mental capabilities possessed by these hopping creatures, surpassing previous assumptions. An animal behaviour scientist involved in the study highlighted the unique communication method employed by kangaroos to express their needs. Interestingly, when a similar study was conducted with wolves, they opted to tear the box apart rather than seek assistance.

This research demonstrates the distinctive and surprising ways in which kangaroos communicate and adapt to their environment, further emphasizing their cognitive abilities.

Outsmarting Predators With Cunning Strategies

Now, let’s shift our focus to the untamed wilderness. Although many of the kangaroos’ natural predators, such as the Tasmanian tigers, thylacines, marsupial lions, and wombats, have become extinct, humans and dingoes still pose occasional threats to them.

While most wild animals rely on instinctual flight responses to evade predators, kangaroos employ a different approach. They flee with a purpose.

Kangaroos possess well-developed muscles and excellent swimming abilities, which have proven to be invaluable assets in their survival. When confronted by an attacker, their primary instinct is to locate a nearby water source. Once they find one, they cleverly entice the predator to follow them into the water, setting the stage for a counterattack.

Exploiting the vulnerability of their adversary in the aquatic environment, kangaroos skillfully utilize their forepaws to submerge and drown the attacker. This remarkable strategy highlights the resourcefulness of kangaroos, transforming them from mere prey into intelligent and adaptive survivors.

Social Intelligence

An essential factor influencing the level of intelligence in kangaroos is their social life. Social intelligence plays a significant role in enhancing their cognitive abilities, distinguishing them from solitary species.

It is important to note that not all group-living animals are necessarily smarter than solitary creatures. However, the social structure undoubtedly has a positive impact on cognitive capabilities.

A collective of kangaroos is referred to as a “mob,” typically comprising ten or more individuals, with the most dominant male assuming leadership. Kangaroos employ various methods to foster cohesion within the group, such as nose touching, sniffing, and producing affectionate “clicking” sounds.

These captivating marsupials also possess a unique approach to establishing dominance and competing for mates: boxing. Male kangaroos frequently engage in these bouts within their mob, with the older and larger individuals often emerging as victors. This is attributed to the continuous growth of male kangaroos, making them increasingly dominant and formidable as they age.

Additionally, kangaroos exhibit impressive cooperative behaviour. Female kangaroos, in particular, often collaborate and take turns caring for their young, assuming the role of “aunties.” This phenomenon, known as alloparenting, is not exclusive to kangaroos and can also be observed among wolves and elephants, showcasing a form of communal parenting.

These social dynamics contribute to the fascinating world of kangaroos, highlighting their advanced social intelligence and cooperative nature.

Kangaroo in open

FAQs About Kangaroos’ Intelligence

Addressing Common Inquiries: Unveiling the Intelligence of Kangaroos

Are Kangaroos Smarter Than Dogs?

Sceptics might argue that dogs reign supreme due to their ability to perform tricks and follow commands but don’t underestimate kangaroos. In fact, these marsupials possess some pretty impressive cognitive abilities. They are known to communicate with one another through a combination of vocalizations and body language, and they can even recognize individual kangaroos within their social group. 

Additionally, kangaroos are quick learners and have been observed using tools to accomplish tasks. While dogs have their own unique set of skills, it’s clear that kangaroos deserve more credit than they often receive when it comes to their intelligence.

Can Kangaroos be Trained?

Many people have wondered whether it is possible to train these marsupials due to their impressive physical prowess and intelligence. After all, kangaroos have been observed exhibiting complex social behaviours such as play, communication, and hierarchies. 

While there is little research that has been done on kangaroo training, it is possible that these animals could be trained to some extent. However, it would require a high level of expertise, patience, and understanding of the kangaroo’s natural behaviour and needs. 

Final Words

Over the years, the general perception of kangaroos has been that they are not particularly bright. However, recent scientific research has revealed that they might be more intelligent than we once thought. While they may not be the most intelligent creatures on the planet, they possess certain skills that are impressive in their own right. Kangaroos have the ability to communicate with humans in ways that are highly sophisticated, and they can also outsmart their natural predators in a number of ways. Furthermore, these hopping marsupials engage in complex social behaviours that demonstrate high levels of intelligence.


Author Profile
Jeevan Kodiyan
Zoologist | Wildlife Conservation at Animals Research

An animal enthusiast with an interest in zoology, studying the behavior and activities of animals in the wild habitat. I work on research projects related to species conservation and endangered species protection. I also leverage zoology to become an educator, educating others about the importance of protecting our natural environment and the beauty of animals in their natural habitats.

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An animal enthusiast with an interest in zoology, studying the behavior and activities of animals in the wild habitat. I work on research projects related to species conservation and endangered species protection. I also leverage zoology to become an educator, educating others about the importance of protecting our natural environment and the beauty of animals in their natural habitats.


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