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Dasycercus byrnei.JPG
Scientific classification

Spencer, 1896
D. byrnei
Binomial name
Dasyuroides byrnei
Spencer, 1896
Distribution of the kowari

The kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei), also known as the brush-tailed marsupial rat, Kayer rat, Byrne's crest-tailed marsupial rat, bushy-tailed marsupial rat and kawiri, is a small carnivorous marsupial native to the dry grasslands and deserts of central Australia. It is monotypical in its genus.


The kowari is 16.5–18 cm long, with a 13–14 cm tail. Its diet consists mainly of insects and spiders, but probably also small lizards, birds or rodents.[1] It is known as a voracious predator. It lives in underground burrows, singly or in small groups. It emerges to hunt among grass tussocks for food. It breeds in winter, from May–October, and gives birth to litters of 5-6 young after a gestation of 32 days.[1]

The kowari is coloured ashy-grey, and its distinguishing feature is the brush of black hairs on the end of its tail, which differs from that found in the mulgaras (Dasycercus) in that it completely encircles the end of the tail. They have a life span of 3–6 years.[3]


The kowari is found in stony desert areas of the Lake Eyre drainage basin, in north-eastern South Australia and southwestern Queensland. West of Lake Eyre it is declining, and is now possibly extinct in this area.[4]


The kowari is the only member of its genus. The genus name, Dasyuroides, indicates that it resembles Dasyurus, the quolls. First described in 1896 by Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer, it was for some time included in the genus Dasycercus.

The Kowari is a member of the family Dasyuridae, and is most closely related to the mulgara.

Two subspecies of the kowari are recognised:[3]

  • D. b. byrnei, found in the north-eastern part of the range
  • D. b. pallidior, found in the south-western part of the range


The Kowari has been known to be assoicated with oral squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). The SCCs cause tumors to invade the oral cavity of the kowari. The tumors begin to cause swelling in the gums. Prior to seeing tumor formation, periodontal diseases are heavily present in the oral cavity. The kowari is not expected to surivive after the SCCs have begun to develop and effect other regions of the body.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Groves, C.P. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ McKnight, M.; Canty, P.; Brandle, R.; Robinson, T. & Watson, M. (2008). "Dasyuroides byrnei". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008: e.T6265A12592863. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T6265A12592863.en. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b Aslin, H.J.; Lim, L. (1995). "Kowari". In Strahan, Ronald. The Mammals of Australia. Reed Books. pp. 59–61.
  4. ^ Menkhorst, Peter (2001). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press. p. 52.
  5. ^ Saunders, Richard; Killick, Rowena; Barrows, Michelle; Stidworthy, Mark (2017). "Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Three Related Kowari ( Dasyuroides byrnei )". Journal of Comparative Pathology. 156 (2–3): 286–290. doi:10.1016/j.jcpa.2017.01.001. PMID 28196645.

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