A wallaby is like a small kangaroo.
They have big back legs and feet to help them hop.
They have small front legs.
They live in grassy or rocky places.
A baby wallaby is called a joey.
What is a wallaby?
Wallabies are part of a group called 'macropods', which means 'great-footed animals'. Kangaroos are the largest members of this group. There are many different kinds of wallaby.
Habitat and Distribution (where they are found)
Wallabies are found in Australia, and there are different kinds of wallaby found all over the country, in all the different habitats.
Appearance and Behaviours
Like all macropods, wallabies have strong back legs with long feet. They hop on their back legs when travelling fast, using the tail as a balance. This is like bouncing on a spring. It is an energy-efficient way of travelling great distances. Their front legs are small. They are marsupials. The pouches of female wallabies, like those of other macropods, are front-opening. The pouches of some marsupials, such as wombats, are backward opening so they don't fill with dirt when the female digs a burrow.
Wallabies are smaller than kangaroos. They often eat the leaves of bushes as well as eating grass. Wallabies are active at night and rest during the day.
There are three kinds of wallaby called nailtail wallabies. They have a nail-like tip to their tails, but the reason for it is not known. Nailtails are found in grassy woodlands in the northern parts of Australia. They are shy and live alone. As they hop, they move their front legs as though they are pedalling, and are nicknamed 'organ grinder wallabies'.
Some wallabies live in rocky parts of Australia. They are called rock wallabies. Their hind feet are furry to give them a better grip as they hop on rocks. Their tails are slender for better balance. Among these are the Yellow-footed rock wallaby and the Brush-tailed rock wallaby. The yellow-footed rock wallaby is grey, with yellow and orange legs,feet and arms.It has a stripy tail and a white cheek stripe. It lives in large groups. It was hunted for its fur, and has had to compete for food with feral goats and rabbits, so there are fewer of these wallabies than there were.
Brush-tailed rock wallaby
Marsupials are born after a very short pregnancy, so they are very undeveloped. They are tiny, blind and have no fur. The mother licks the fur on her belly, and as soon as it is born, the tiny creature climbs up along the damp fur pathway to the mother's pouch. The damp fur makes a path for it to follow and also prevents it from drying out. It is a huge journey for the tiny baby, and the mother can't touch it to help it on its way because it is so fragile.
Inside the pouch it suckles milk from a teat, not letting go until it is big enough to leave the pouch. As it grows, the milk changes to give it the nourishment it needs at each stage of its development. When it is big enough, the joey starts to leave the pouch to hop around, but returns to the pouch to feed. At this stage, the mother gives birth to another joey so that she has one in the pouch attached to a teat and one 'at foot' returning to feed from the teat it has always used.
Conservation status and Threats
Wallabies come in all sizes and live in different parts of Australia. Some kinds of wallaby, such as the Victorian Brush-tailed rock wallaby, and the Bridled Nailtail wallaby, are endangered and other kinds are quite common.
Yellow-footed rock wallaby
Find out more about macropods
Find out about some different kinds of wallaby
Back to Animals
Updated September 2007