Kangaroos and emus not walking backwards

Here’s another factoid I unearthed, and surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to have been dealt with here.

Emus and kangaroos cannot walk backwards, and are on the Australian seal for that reason.

OK. My first thought is well, emus and kangaroos are on the seal because they’re animals commonly associated with Australia. Checking the official Australian government web site, I found a page with the original seal. Interestingly enough, it pictures an emu and kangaroo (so?) with the motto “always forward.” (ah!)

However, the explanation for the seal makes no mention of the fact that the animals can only go forward and simply states what I assumed: that they’re just symbolic animals of Australia.

So two things here, then. Is it true that kangaroos and emus cannot walk backwards? (I can believe kangaroos, but emus seems suspect to me.) If so, then is the use of these animals simply coincidental with the “motto.” (Which I think would be the case. Though I suppose they could’ve chosen a koala and an ostrich.)

There are a few thousand sites that claim that those critters cannot walk backward and that that was the reason they were chosen for the seal.

Among the factoids, kids’ sites, and glurge sites, I did find an International Wildlife Magazine article that confirms (with a bit more credibility than most) that Kangaroos cannot walk backward. And a Detroit Free Press (kids) article that repeats the kangaroo line, but claims that emus can (but only poorly).

The Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet web site has Guidelines on the Coat of Arms that mention that the Kangaroo and Emu are unique to Australia while not mentioning anything regarding their locomotion.

Can’t recall ever seeing a kangaroo walk backwards but have definitely seen emus take a step or two backwards when shying away from something.

There might be a reason why a kangaroo couldn’t walk backwards (shape of legs, large tail) but that would just be a guess. I would doubt that there would be a physiological reason that would stop an emu from walking backwards.

I’d strongly suspect that, as with most animals, it’s just easier to turn around and walk the other way rather than trying to walk backwards especially as they can’t easily see behind them.

Another site confirming the kangaroo’s lack of ability to walk backwards.

Interestingly, I found this site, which state the following:

Unfortunately, it isn’t terribly clear whether the “walking backwards” symptom applies to emus, or only to the non-emu ratites.

tomndebb- it seems you’ve hit most of the sources I found. Though I certainly can believe kangaroos cannot walk backwards, emus don’t quite work for me. I suppose some field research is in order. (Although the other posters seems to support this conclusion.) That said, it would seem rather odd to use these animals as symbols for the motto “always forward” if the symbology is, well, unknown. I mean, really, who the heck would think of kangaroos and emus as symbols for progressiveness?

As an Australian we are Proud of our Nation, Like every other Nation I suspect.
It is a part of our National Knowledge to know (and a required question for any person wanting Citizenship) that the reason a Kangaroo and Emu are on the Australian Coat of arms, is because Neither Animal can take a backward step.


6 months ago I moved to a small town on the sleepy south coast of New South Wales called Jamberoo.

I live on a large farm that is actually a Wildlife Reserve and there are approximately 300 Kangaroos on this property.

They come to my bedroom window every morning and crowd around my car on my way to work.

On more than one occasion I was absolutely startled to see two things

  1. On several occasions I have seen them hop backwards, (No not turn around) but hop directly backwards. I thought to myself, “they are not suppose to take a backwards step” (or hop) but given they do not take a forward step (hop) then I was satisfied that a Kangaroo can take a backward step

  2. What was more shocking is that yesterday morning (January 25th 2011 - the day before our National Holiday - Australia Day) I had 3 Kangaroos pushing their nose against the glass on my bedroom window (the whole wall is a window) and I walked up to the Window to see how close I could get, and the larger of the three proceeded to lift each foot in turn and took 3 steps backwards to move away from the window.

Kangaroos Can Walk Backwards (Sorry Australia, Our Coat of Arms and National Pride has just died)

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Can't_a_kangaroo_walk_backwards#ixzz1C5exqY2M

“They come to my bedroom window every morning …”

I don’t wish to be rooo’d but please explain.

BTW, I can still recall all these years later of a fight between two large grays in the early morning. Each walked backwards before again advancing to attack the other.


Dear Rood :slight_smile: I am not sure what you are asking me to explain?

I thought that I had explained it all?

The original purpose of my post was to dispel the myth that most people seem to think that Kangaroos cannot walk backwards.

It appears that both you and I agree on that point , its just that everyone seems to think contrary to the truth? and not many places testify to the truth

I am happy to explain more but I am unsure of your requested clarification?

He wants to know why they were looking in your window in the first place.

Me, too!

Also, dogs can’t look up.

Nowadays, like everyone else, they just Google.

That link is now dead, 8 years later. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade currently has a page on the Coat of Arms which says:

And whirling, whirling, whirling toward freedom!

Just an aside, are we the only country that eats it’s coat of arms?

Americans don’t often chow on bald eagle, but we do eat olives.

Scan through the gallery, and see what you think:

Some have marlins - those are usually fished for sport, but are sometimes eaten. I’ll bet some of those countries with a bull on it eat beef. There’s several varieties of deer or African antelope species. Not to mention horses, which many cultures don’t have a taboo about eating. Cameloids, too, possibly. The birds look like they’re probably off the menu - secretary birds, flamingos, pelicans, parrots, eagles with singular or double heads, buzzards, err, actually those are condors …

Of course, I could be snarky and suggest Fiji …

Although that can lead to trouble as well.

Wow. I have no recollection of ever starting this thread.