Kangaroos defend against an attacker by holding an attacker with their smaller front legs whilst using the larger, stronger hind legs to slash, disembowel and kick. This gives an appearance of boxing with the forelegs.
By the late 19th century outback travelling shows often featured kangaroos wearinmg boxing gloves fighting against men. Boxing kangaroos were also featured in various films, further cementing the concept in the public mind of kangaroos boxing.
Some early posters and postcards of boxing kangaroos.
In World War 2 boxing kangaroos were stencilled onto Australian aircraft in Singapore to distinguish them from British aircraft. This spread to other units and then to ships of the Royal Australian Navy.
A boxing kangaroo wearing a slouch hat painted on the nose of a Royal Australian Air Force Liberator bomber based in India c. 1943-44.
The modern depiction of the boxing kangaroo, and its rise to prominence, comes from the 1983 America’s Cup challenge when the yacht with the winged keel, Australia 11, brought home the trophy. The boxing kangaroo was the challenge mascot. The yacht, and the rights to the boxing kangaroo image, were owned by Alan Bond who licensed it for mass production.
The image of the boxing kangaroo came to be increasingly used, especially at sporting events such as at cricket, tennis and football matches, and at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
The rights to the boxing kangaroo image were purchased from Bond by the Australian Olympic Committee, which also gave him a makeover to make the kangaroo a little gentler than the 1983 Bond version.
That made over version is what is used today.
In 2010 in the leadup to the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee ordered the removal of a large boxing kangaroo flag draped over the balcony of the Australian athletes’ quarters. The IOC deemed it too commercial and possibly conflicting with merchandising rights of sponsors.
Not so, said AOC President John Coates, pointing out that there was no such merchandise being sold.
Deputy PM Julia Gillard agreed, stating "It's a scandal. I think we want to see a lot of the boxing kangaroo, particularly now that we've had this ridiculous ruling. So, yes, boxing kangaroos everywhere."
The IOC backed off and the flag stayed.
Have a happy Oz Day, Byters.
In the words of the Australian Cricket Team victory song:
Under the Southern Cross I stand,
A sprig of wattle in my hand,
A native of my native land,
Australia, you fucking beauty.