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The word 'kangaroo’ comes from the Guugu Yimidhirr people sharing the word ‘gangurru’ with James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour in 1770. Emblematic of Australia’s unique wildlife, the kangaroo is part of the coat of arms, is seen in various logos and is a mascot at international sporting events.

More on the kangaroo

Terence Lane kangaroo collection

More than 150 Australiana objects, from a Doulton ceramic kangaroo umbrella stand to jewellery inspired by the kangaroo.

Aboriginal language game

Match words in Guugu Yimidhirr language with words recorded by James Cook’s Endeavour crew in our free online game.

Curiosity to official emblem

A gouache painting on paper. The design features four kangaroos of various sizes, facing left. Each kangaroo is multicoloured with red, blue, olive green, yellow ochre and brown in an X-ray style that is outlined in beige. There are several black handprints, each within dark ochre 'smudge'. In the lower left corner is a transparency of text taped on that reads 'in dreamtime journeys kangaroo spirit ancestors travelled ...'. The text 'Balarinji' is handwritten in pencil on the lower right hand corner of the art work. - click to view larger image
Kangaroo Journeys 1, 1998

After the Endeavour's visit, the kangaroo soon appeared in exhibitions, collections and printed works across Europe. By the 1880s, this hopping marsupial was used to brand products ranging from bicycles to Billy Tea.

Hunted for meat and for sport, and used as a motif in the decorative arts, the kangaroo was finally recognised as an official symbol of Australia when it was included on the nation’s coat of arms in 1908.

The kangaroo has appeared on currency and stamps and on Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. From Ken Done to Qantas, Australian Made to the Jillaroos, the kangaroo bounding through the landscape is an enduring symbol of Australia.

Image of kangaroo standing on a mound or rocks with mountains and trees in the background. Text across the top reads 'An Animal of a new Species found on the Coast of NEW SOUTH WALES.' - click to view larger image
An Animal of a New Species, 1773, after George Stubbs

Kangaroos belong to the Macropodidae family, meaning ‘big foot’ in Latin. The family includes red and grey kangaroos and smaller wallabies, potoroos and tree kangaroos. The red kangaroo is the world's largest marsupial.

Stubbs’ kangaroo

Endeavour botanist Joseph Banks returned to England with the skull and skin of a kangaroo collected at Waalumbaal Birri, near modern-day Cooktown, Queensland.

These were among a vast number of specimens of plants and animals previously unknown to Europeans. Banks commissioned George Stubbs to paint the animal.

The official account of the Endeavour's voyage was published in 1773 and was illustrated with an engraving of Stubbs’ kangaroo. This was the first printed illustration of a kangaroo and quickly came to symbolise the Australian continent.

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