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Red hair

Red hair

Overview
Red hair occurs on approximately 1–2% of the human population. It occurs more frequently (2–6%) in people of northern or western European ancestry, and less frequently in other populations. Red hair appears in people with two copies of a recessive gene
Dominance relationship
Dominance in genetics is a relationship between two variant forms of a single gene, in which one allele masks the effect of the other in influencing some trait. In the simplest case, if a gene exists in two allelic forms , three combinations of alleles are possible: AA, AB, and BB...

 on chromosome 16 which causes a mutation in the MC1R
Melanocortin 1 receptor
The melanocortin 1 receptor , also known as melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor , melanin-activating peptide receptor, or melanotropin receptor, is a G protein-coupled receptor which binds to a class of pituitary peptide hormones known as the melanocortins, of which include adrenocorticotropic...

 protein.

Red hair varies from a deep burgundy through burnt orange to bright copper
Copper (color)
Copper is a reddish brown color that resembles the metal copper.At right is displayed the color copper.The first recorded use of copper as a color name in English was in 1594.-Pale copper:...

.
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Encyclopedia
Red hair occurs on approximately 1–2% of the human population. It occurs more frequently (2–6%) in people of northern or western European ancestry, and less frequently in other populations. Red hair appears in people with two copies of a recessive gene
Dominance relationship
Dominance in genetics is a relationship between two variant forms of a single gene, in which one allele masks the effect of the other in influencing some trait. In the simplest case, if a gene exists in two allelic forms , three combinations of alleles are possible: AA, AB, and BB...

 on chromosome 16 which causes a mutation in the MC1R
Melanocortin 1 receptor
The melanocortin 1 receptor , also known as melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor , melanin-activating peptide receptor, or melanotropin receptor, is a G protein-coupled receptor which binds to a class of pituitary peptide hormones known as the melanocortins, of which include adrenocorticotropic...

 protein.

Red hair varies from a deep burgundy through burnt orange to bright copper
Copper (color)
Copper is a reddish brown color that resembles the metal copper.At right is displayed the color copper.The first recorded use of copper as a color name in English was in 1594.-Pale copper:...

. It is characterized by high levels of the reddish pigment pheomelanin and relatively low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The term redhead (originally redd hede) has been in use since at least 1510. It is associated with fair skin color, lighter eye color
Eye color
Eye color is a polygenic phenotypic character and is determined by two distinct factors: the pigmentation of the eye's iris and the frequency-dependence of the scattering of light by the turbid medium in the stroma of the iris....

s (gray, blue, green, and hazel), freckle
Freckle
For other uses of the word, see Freckles .Freckles are clusters of concentrated melanin which are most often visible on people with a fair complexion. A freckle is also called an "ephelis". Freckles do not have an increased number of melanin producing cells...

s, and sensitivity to ultraviolet light.

Cultural reactions have varied from ridicule to admiration; many common stereotypes exist regarding redheads and they are often portrayed as fiery-tempered.

Historical


Several accounts by Greek writers mention redheaded people. A fragment by the poet Xenophanes
Xenophanes
of Colophon was a Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and social and religious critic. Xenophanes life was one of travel, having left Ionia at the age of 25 he continued to travel throughout the Greek world for another 67 years. Some scholars say he lived in exile in Siciliy...

 describes the Thracians
Thracians
The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting areas including Thrace in Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family...

 as blue-eyed and red haired. Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 described the Budini
Budini
The Budini were an ancient people who lived in Scythia, in what is today Ukraine.Herodotus wrote in his Histories :...

 people as being predominantly red haired. Dio Cassius
Dio Cassius
Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus , known in English as Cassius Dio, Dio Cassius, or Dio was a Roman consul and a noted historian writing in Greek...

 described Boudica
Boudica
Boudica , also known as Boadicea and known in Welsh as "Buddug" was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire....

, Queen of the Iceni
Iceni
The Iceni or Eceni were a British tribe who inhabited an area of East Anglia corresponding roughly to the modern-day county of Norfolk between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD...

, to be "tall and terrifying in appearance... a great mass of red hair... over her shoulders."

The Roman historian Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 commented on the "red hair and large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia
Caledonia
Caledonia is the Latinised form and name given by the Romans to the land in today's Scotland north of their province of Britannia, beyond the frontier of their empire...

", which he connected with some red haired Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

ish tribes of Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 and Belgic
Belgae
The Belgae were a group of tribes living in northern Gaul, on the west bank of the Rhine, in the 3rd century BC, and later also in Britain, and possibly even Ireland...

 relation.

In Asia, red hair has been found among the ancient Tocharians
Tocharians
The Tocharians were the Tocharian-speaking inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, making them the easternmost speakers of Indo-European languages in antiquity. They were known as, or at least closely related to, the Yuezhi of Chinese sources...

, who occupied the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin occupying an area of about . It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far west. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern is the Kunlun Mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The...

 in what is now the northwesternmost province of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. Caucasian Tarim mummies
Tarim mummies
The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1900 BC to 200 AD. Some of the mummies are frequently associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin, although the evidence is not...

 have been found with red hair dating to the 2nd millennium BC.

Red hair is also found amongst Polynesians
Polynesians
The Polynesian peoples is a grouping of various ethnic groups that speak Polynesian languages, a branch of the Oceanic languages within the Austronesian languages, and inhabit Polynesia. They number approximately 1,500,000 people...

, and is especially common in some tribes and family groups. In Polynesian culture red hair has traditionally been seen as a sign of descent from high ranking ancestors and a mark of rulership.

Modern



Today, red hair is most commonly found at the northern
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

 and western fringes
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

; it is associated particularly with the people located in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and in Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 (although Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 ethnographers claimed that the Udmurt people
Udmurt people
The Udmurts are a people who speak the Udmurt language. Through history they have been known in Russian as Chud Otyatskaya , Otyaks, or Votyaks , and in Tatar as Ar....

 of the Volga were "the most red-headed men in the world"). Redheads are common among Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 and Celtic peoples.

Redheads constitute approximately 4 percent of the European population. Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 has the highest proportion of redheads; 13 per cent of the population has red hair and approximately 40 per cent carries the recessive redhead gene. Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 has the second highest percentage; as many as 10 per cent of the Irish population has red, auburn, or strawberry blond hair. It is thought that up to 46 percent of the Irish population carries the recessive redhead gene. A 1956 study of hair colour amongst British army recruits also found high levels of red hair in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 and the English Border counties
Anglo-Scottish border
The Anglo-Scottish border is the official border and mark of entry between Scotland and England. It runs for 154 km between the River Tweed on the east coast and the Solway Firth in the west. It is Scotland's only land border...

.

Red hair is also fairly common amongst the Ashkenazi Jewish populations, possibly because of the influx of European DNA over a period of centuries, or in the original founding of their communities in Europe, although both Esau and David are described in the Bible as red-haired. In European culture, prior to the 20th century, red hair was often seen as a stereotypically Jewish trait: during the Spanish Inquisition, all those with red hair were identified as Jewish. In Italy, red hair was associated with Italian Jews, and Judas was traditionally depicted as red-haired in Italian and Spanish art. Writers from Shakespeare to Dickens would identify Jewish characters by giving them red hair. The stereotype
Stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

 that red hair is Jewish remains in parts of Eastern Europe and Russia.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, it is estimated that 2-6% of the population has red hair. This would give the U.S. the largest population of redheads in the world, at 6 to 18 million, compared to approximately 650,000 in Scotland and 420,000 in Ireland.

Red or reddish-tinged hair is also found in other European populations particularly in the Nordic
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

 and Baltic countries
Baltic countries
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 as well as parts of the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and South Slavic countries
South Slavs
The South Slavs are the southern branch of the Slavic peoples and speak South Slavic languages. Geographically, the South Slavs are native to the Balkan peninsula, the southern Pannonian Plain and the eastern Alps...

.

The Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 populations of Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 and northern Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 have occasional redheads. Red hair frequency is especially significant among the Kabyles
Kabyle people
The Kabyle people are the largest homogeneous Algerian ethno-cultural and linguistical community and the largest nation in North Africa to be considered exclusively Berber. Their traditional homeland is Kabylie in the north of Algeria, one hundred miles east of Algiers...

 from Algeria, where it reaches 4 percent. The Queen of Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, Lalla Salma wife of king Mohammed VI, has red hair. Abd ar-Rahman I
Abd ar-Rahman I
Abd al-Rahman I, or, his full name by patronymic record, Abd al-Rahman ibn Mu'awiya ibn Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan was the founder of the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba , a Muslim dynasty that ruled the greater part of Iberia for nearly three centuries...

 also had red hair, his mother being a Christian Berber slave.

In Asia, darker or mixed tinges of red hair can be found sporadically from Northern India, the northern Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 (such as Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

), and in rare instances on the Island of Hirado
Hirado, Nagasaki
is a city in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. The part historically named Hirado is located on the island of the same name. With recent mergers, the city's boundaries have expanded, and Hirado now occupies parts of the main island of Kyūshū...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

Yamamoto M., and Neel J.V. "A note on red hair on the Island of Hirado, Japan". Jinrui Idengaku Zasshi. March 1967. 11 (4), pp. 257–62. and the South Pacific
Oceania
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

. Red hair can be found amongst those of Iranian
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

 descent, such as the Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

s, Lurs
Lurs
Lurs are an Iranic people living mainly in south-western Iran. Their population is estimated at above two million. They occupy Lorestan, Bakhtiari, and Kuh-Gilu-Boir Ahmed. "....

, Nuristanis and Pashtuns
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

. Emigration from the these people as well as parts of the Middle East, Central Asia, North India
North India
North India, known natively as Uttar Bhārat or Shumālī Hindustān , is a loosely defined region in the northern part of India. The exact meaning of the term varies by usage...

, and North Africa added to the population of red-haired humans in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other parts of Africa and Europe.

Biochemistry and genetics


The pigment pheomelanin gives red hair its distinctive color. Red hair has far more of the pigment pheomelanin than it has of the dark pigment eumelanin.

The genetics
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 of red hair, discovered in 1997, appear to be associated with the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R), which is found on chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

 16. Red hair is associated with fair skin color because of low concentrations of eumelanin throughout the body of those with red hair. This lower melanin-concentration confers the advantage that a sufficient concentration of important Vitamin D
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids. In humans, vitamin D is unique both because it functions as a prohormone and because the body can synthesize it when sun exposure is adequate ....

 can be produced under low light conditions. However, when UV-radiation is strong (as in regions close to the equator) the lower concentration of melanin leads to several medical disadvantages, such as a higher risk of skin cancer.

The MC1R recessive variant gene that gives people red hair and fair skin is also associated with freckle
Freckle
For other uses of the word, see Freckles .Freckles are clusters of concentrated melanin which are most often visible on people with a fair complexion. A freckle is also called an "ephelis". Freckles do not have an increased number of melanin producing cells...

s, though it is not uncommon to see a redhead without freckles. Eighty percent of redheads have an MC1R gene variant, and the prevalence of these alleles is highest in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. The alleles that code for red hair occur close to the alleles that affect skin color, so it seems that the phenotypic expression for lighter skin and red hair are interrelated.

Red hair can originate from several different changes on the MC1R-gene. If one of these changes is present on both chromosomes then the respective individual is likely to have red hair. This type of inheritance is described as an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance. Even if both parents do not have red hair themselves, both can be carriers for the gene and have a redheaded child.

Genetics


The alleles Arg151Cys, Arg160Trp, Asp294His
Asp294His
Asp294His is a single nucleotide polymorphism in the MC1R gene and it is associated with red hair and light skin type.Other SNPs in the gene, Arg151Cys and Arg160Trp, are also associated with red hair....

, and Arg142His on MC1R are shown to be recessives for the red hair phenotype. The gene HCL2 (also called RHC or RHA) on chromosome 4 may also be related to red hair.

Origins


Red hair is the rarest natural hair color in humans. The pale skin associated with red hair may have been advantageous in far-northern climates where sunlight is scarce. Studies by Bodmer
Walter Bodmer
Sir Walter Bodmer is a German-born British human geneticist. His father being Jewish, the family left Germany in 1938 and settled in Manchester. Bodmer has developed models for population genetics and done work on the human leukocyte antigen system and the use of somatic cell hybrids for human...

 and Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza is an Italian population geneticist born in Genoa, who has been a professor at Stanford University since 1970 .-Books:...

 (1976) hypothesized that lighter skin pigmentation prevents rickets
Rickets
Rickets is a softening of bones in children due to deficiency or impaired metabolism of vitamin D, magnesium , phosphorus or calcium, potentially leading to fractures and deformity. Rickets is among the most frequent childhood diseases in many developing countries...

 in colder latitudes by encouraging higher levels of Vitamin D
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids. In humans, vitamin D is unique both because it functions as a prohormone and because the body can synthesize it when sun exposure is adequate ....

 production and also allows the individual to retain heat better than someone with darker skin. In 2000, Harding et al. concluded that red hair was not the result of positive selection and instead proposed that it occurs because of a lack of negative selection. In Africa, for example, red hair is selected against because high levels of sun would be harmful to fair skin. However, in Northern Europe this does not happen, so redheads come about through genetic drift
Genetic drift
Genetic drift or allelic drift is the change in the frequency of a gene variant in a population due to random sampling.The alleles in the offspring are a sample of those in the parents, and chance has a role in determining whether a given individual survives and reproduces...

. Rees (2004) suggested that the vividness and rarity of red hair may lead to its becoming desirable in a partner and therefore it could become more common through sexual selection
Sexual selection
Sexual selection, a concept introduced by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, is a significant element of his theory of natural selection...

.

Estimates on the original occurrence of the currently active gene for red hair vary from 20,000 to 100,000 years ago.

A DNA study has concluded that some Neanderthals also had red hair, although the mutation responsible for this differs from that which causes red hair in modern humans.

Extinction hoax



A 2007 report in The Courier-Mail
The Courier-Mail
The Courier-Mail is a daily newspaper published in Brisbane, Australia. Owned by News Limited, it is published daily from Monday to Saturday in tabloid format. Its editorial offices are located at Bowen Hills, in Brisbane's inner northern suburbs, and it is printed at Murarrie, in Brisbane's...

, which cited the National Geographic
National Geographic Magazine
National Geographic, formerly the National Geographic Magazine, is the official journal of the National Geographic Society. It published its first issue in 1888, just nine months after the Society itself was founded...

magazine and unnamed "geneticists", said that red hair is likely to die out in the near future. Other blogs and news sources ran similar stories that attributed the research to the magazine or the "Oxford Hair Foundation". However, a HowStuffWorks
HowStuffWorks
HowStuffWorks is a commercial edutainment website that was founded by Marshall Brain with the goal of giving its target audience an insight into the way in which many things work. The site uses various media in its effort to explain complex concepts, terminology and mechanisms, including...

 article says that the foundation was funded by hair-dye maker Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble is a Fortune 500 American multinational corporation headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio and manufactures a wide range of consumer goods....

, and that other experts had dismissed the research as either lacking in evidence or simply bogus. The National Geographic article in fact states "while redheads may decline, the potential for red isn't going away".

Red hair is caused by a relatively rare recessive gene, the expression of which can skip generations. It is not likely to disappear at any time in the foreseeable future.

Melanoma


Melanin
Melanin
Melanin is a pigment that is ubiquitous in nature, being found in most organisms . In animals melanin pigments are derivatives of the amino acid tyrosine. The most common form of biological melanin is eumelanin, a brown-black polymer of dihydroxyindole carboxylic acids, and their reduced forms...

 in the skin aids UV tolerance through suntan
Suntan
Can refer to:*Sun tanning* a tan colored military uniform worn typically in the summer* the pants of a such a uniform or of similar design* in fashion, a garment of light-brown color....

ning, but fair-skinned persons lack the levels of melanin needed to prevent UV-induced DNA-damage
Indirect DNA damage
Indirect DNA damage occurs when a UV-photon is absorbed in the human skin by a chromophore that does not have the ability to convert the energy into harmless heat very quickly. Molecules that do not have this ability have a long lived excited state. This long lifetime leads to a high probability...

. Studies have shown that red hair alleles in MC1R increase freckling and decrease tanning ability. It has been found that Europeans who are heterozygous
Zygosity
Zygosity refers to the similarity of alleles for a trait in an organism. If both alleles are the same, the organism is homozygous for the trait. If both alleles are different, the organism is heterozygous for that trait...

 for red hair exhibit increased sensitivity to UV radiation.

Red hair and its relationship to UV sensitivity are of interest to many melanoma
Melanoma
Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells that produce the dark pigment, melanin, which is responsible for the color of skin. They predominantly occur in skin, but are also found in other parts of the body, including the bowel and the eye...

 researchers. Sunshine can both be good and bad for a person's health and the different alleles on MC1R represent these adaptations. It also has been shown that individuals with pale skin are highly susceptible to a variety of skin cancer
Skin cancer
Skin neoplasms are skin growths with differing causes and varying degrees of malignancy. The three most common malignant skin cancers are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma, each of which is named after the type of skin cell from which it arises...

s such as melanoma
Melanoma
Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells that produce the dark pigment, melanin, which is responsible for the color of skin. They predominantly occur in skin, but are also found in other parts of the body, including the bowel and the eye...

, basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma
Basal-cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It rarely metastasizes or kills. However, because it can cause significant destruction and disfigurement by invading surrounding tissues, it is still considered malignant. Statistically, approximately 3 out of 10 Caucasians may develop a...

, and squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma , occasionally rendered as "squamous-cell carcinoma", is a histologically distinct form of cancer. It arises from the uncontrolled multiplication of malignant cells deriving from epithelium, or showing particular cytological or tissue architectural characteristics of...

.

Pain tolerance and injury


Two studies have demonstrated that people with red hair have different sensitivity to pain compared to people with other hair colors. One study found that people with red hair are more sensitive to thermal pain (associated with naturally occurring low vitamin K
Vitamin K
Vitamin K is a group of structurally similar, fat soluble vitamins that are needed for the posttranslational modification of certain proteins required for blood coagulation and in metabolic pathways in bone and other tissue. They are 2-methyl-1,4-naphthoquinone derivatives...

 levels), while another study concluded that redheads are less sensitive to pain from multiple modalities, including noxious stimuli such as electrically induced pain.

Researchers have found that people with red hair require greater amounts of anesthetic. Other research publications have concluded that women with naturally red hair require less of the painkiller pentazocine
Pentazocine
Pentazocine is a synthetically prepared prototypical mixed agonist-antagonist narcotic drug of the benzomorphan class of opioids used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain...

 than do either women of other hair colors or men of any hair color. A study showed women with red hair had a greater analgesic
Analgesic
An analgesic is any member of the group of drugs used to relieve pain . The word analgesic derives from Greek an- and algos ....

 response to that particular pain medication than men. A follow-up study by the same group showed that men and women with red hair had a greater analgesic response to morphine-6-glucuronide
Morphine-6-glucuronide
Morphine-6-glucuronide is a major active metabolite of morphine, and as such is the molecule responsible for much of the pain-relieving effects of morphine . M6G is formed from morphine by the enzyme UDP-Glucuronosyltransferase-2B7...

.

The unexpected relationship of hair color to pain tolerance appears to be because redheads have a mutation in a hormone receptor that can apparently respond to at least two different hormones: the skin pigmentation hormone melanocyte-stimulating hormone
Melanocyte-stimulating hormone
The melanocyte-stimulating hormones are a class of peptide hormones that are produced by cells in the intermediate lobe of the pituitary gland...

, and the pain relieving hormone known as endorphins. (These hormones are both derived from the same precursor molecule, POMC, and are structurally similar.) Specifically, redheads have a mutated MC1R gene, which produces a mutated MC1R receptor, also known as the melanocortin-1 receptor. Melanocytes, which are cells that produce pigment in skin and hair, use the MC1R receptor to recognize and respond to melanocyte-stimulating hormone
Melanocyte-stimulating hormone
The melanocyte-stimulating hormones are a class of peptide hormones that are produced by cells in the intermediate lobe of the pituitary gland...

 from the anterior pituitary
Anterior pituitary
A major organ of the endocrine system, the anterior pituitary, also called the adenohypophysis, is the glandular, anterior lobe of the pituitary gland...

 gland. Melanocyte-stimulating hormone normally stimulates melanocytes to make black eumelanin, but if the melanocytes have a mutated MC1R receptor, they will make reddish pheomelanin instead. The MC1R receptor also occurs in the brain, where it is one of a large set of POMC-related receptors that are apparently involved not only in responding to MSH, but also in responses to endorphins and possibly other POMC-derived hormones. Though the details are not clearly understood, it appears that there is some "cross talk" between the POMC hormones that may explain the link between red hair and pain tolerance.

There is little or no evidence to support the belief that people with red hair have a higher chance than people with other hair colors to hemorrhage or suffer other bleeding complications. One study, however, reports a link between red hair and a higher rate of bruising.

Red hair of pathological origin


Most red hair is caused by the MC1R gene and is non-pathological. However, in rare cases red hair can be associated with disease or genetic disorder:
  • In cases of severe malnutrition
    Malnutrition
    Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess , or in the wrong proportions....

    , normally dark human hair may turn red or blonde. The condition, part of a syndrome known as kwashiorkor
    Kwashiorkor
    Kwashiorkor is an acute form of childhood protein-energy malnutrition characterized by edema, irritability, anorexia, ulcerating dermatoses, and an enlarged liver with fatty infiltrates. The presence of edema caused by poor nutrition defines kwashiorkor...

    , is a sign of critical starvation caused chiefly by protein
    Protein
    Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

     deficiency, and is common during periods of famine
    Famine
    A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

    .
  • One variety of albinism
    Albinism
    Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin...

     (Type 3, aka rufous albinism), sometimes seen in Africans and inhabitants of New Guinea
    New Guinea
    New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

    , results in red hair and red-colored skin.
  • Red hair is found on people lacking pro-opiomelanocortin.

Culture


In various times and cultures, red hair has been prized, feared, and ridiculed.

Beliefs about temperament


A common belief about redheads is that they have fiery tempers and sharp tongues. In Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables is a bestselling novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery published in 1908. Set in 1878, it was written as fiction for readers of all ages, but in recent decades has been considered a children's book...

, a character says of Anne Shirley
Anne Shirley
Anne Shirley is a fictional character introduced in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Montgomery wrote in her journal that the idea for Anne's story came from relatives who, planning to adopt an orphaned boy, received a girl instead...

, the redheaded heroine, that "her temper matches her hair", while in The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage confusion, angst, alienation, language, and rebellion. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major...

, Holden Caulfield
Holden Caulfield
Holden Caulfield is the 16-to-17 years old protagonist of author J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. He is universally recognized for his resistance to growing older and desire to protect childhood innocence...

 remarks that "People with red hair are supposed to get mad very easily, but Allie [his dead brother] never did, and he had very red hair."

During the early stages of modern medicine, red hair was thought to be a sign of a sanguine temperament. In the Indian medicinal practice of Ayurveda
Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

, redheads are seen as most likely to have a Pitta temperament.

Another belief is that redheads are highly sexed; for example, Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

 satirizes redhead stereotypes in part four of Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver's Travels
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, better known simply as Gulliver's Travels , is a novel by Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of...

, "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnm
Houyhnhnm
Houyhnhnms are a race of intelligent horses described in the last part of Jonathan Swift's satirical Gulliver's Travels. The name is pronounced either or ....

s," when he writes that: "It is observed that the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity." Swift goes on to write that: "...neither was the hair of this brute [a Yahoo
Yahoo (literature)
A Yahoo is a legendary being in the novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.Swift describes the Yahoos as vile and savage creatures, filthy and with unpleasant habits, resembling human beings far too closely for the liking of protagonist Lemuel Gulliver, who finds the calm and rational society...

] of a red color (which might have been some excuse for an appetite a little irregular) but black as a sloe..." In the novel and film Red-Headed Woman
Red-Headed Woman
Red-Headed Woman is a 1932 Pre-Code comedy film, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, based on a novel by Katherine Brush, and with a screenplay by Anita Loos. It was directed by Jack Conway, and stars Jean Harlow as a woman who uses sex to advance her social position...

, the titular protagonist is a sexually aggressive home-wrecker who frequently throws violent temper tantrums.

Fashion and art


Queen Elizabeth I of England was a redhead, and during the Elizabethan era in England, red hair was fashionable for women. In modern times, red hair is subject to fashion trends; celebrities such as Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman
Nicole Mary Kidman, AC is an American-born Australian actress, singer, film producer, spokesmodel, and humanitarian. After starring in a number of small Australian films and TV shows, Kidman's breakthrough was in the 1989 thriller Dead Calm...

, Alyson Hannigan
Alyson Hannigan
Alyson Lee Hannigan is an American actress. She is known for her roles as Willow Rosenberg in the cult classic television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Michelle Flaherty in three American Pie films, and Lily Aldrin on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.-Early life:Hannigan was born in...

, Marcia Cross
Marcia Cross
Marcia Anne Cross is an American actress. She is known for her television roles as Bree Van de Kamp on the ABC comedy-drama series Desperate Housewives, and as Dr...

, Christina Hendricks
Christina Hendricks
Christina Rene Hendricks is an actress known for her role as Joan Holloway in the AMC cable television series Mad Men, and as Saffron in Fox's short-lived series Firefly. Hendricks was named "the sexiest woman in the world" in 2010 in a poll of female readers taken by Esquire magazine.-Personal...

 and Geri Halliwell
Geri Halliwell
Geraldine Estelle "Geri" Halliwell is an English pop singer-songwriter, author and actress. After coming to international prominence in the late 1990s as Ginger Spice, a member of the girl group the Spice Girls, Halliwell launched her solo career in 1998 and released her album Schizophonic...

 can boost sales of red hair dye.

Sometimes, red hair darkens as people get older, becoming a more brownish color or losing some of its vividness. This leads some to associate red hair with youthfulness, a quality that is generally considered desirable. In several countries such as India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, henna
Henna
Henna is a flowering plant used since antiquity to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather and wool. The name is also used for dye preparations derived from the plant, and for the art of temporary tattooing based on those dyes...

 and saffron
Saffron
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Each saffron crocus grows to and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are each the distal end of a carpel...

 are used on hair to give it a bright red appearance.

Many painters have exhibited a fascination with red hair. The color "titian" takes its name from Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

, who often painted women with red hair. Early Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance...

's famous painting The Birth of Venus
The Birth of Venus (Botticelli)
The Birth of Venus is a painting by Sandro Botticelli. It depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as a fully grown woman, arriving at the sea-shore...

depicts the mythological goddess Venus
Venus (mythology)
Venus is a Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty, sex,sexual seduction and fertility, who played a key role in many Roman religious festivals and myths...

 as a redhead. Other painters notable for their redheads include the Pre-Raphaelites, Edmund Leighton
Edmund Leighton
Edmund Blair Leighton was an English painter of historical genre scenes, specializing in Regency and medieval subjects.-Biography:...

, Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. Primarily a figurative artist, he became known for paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form...

, and Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects...

.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story The Red-Headed League
The Red-Headed League
"The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in August 1891, with illustrations by Sidney Paget. Conan Doyle ranked "The Red-Headed League" second in his list of his twelve favorite...

involves a man who is asked to become a member of a mysterious group of red-headed people. The 1943 film DuBarry Was a Lady
DuBarry Was a Lady (film)
DuBarry Was a Lady is a 1943 Technicolor film, starring Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Gene Kelly, and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is based on the 1939 stage musical of the same name....

featured red-heads Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball
Lucille Désirée Ball was an American comedian, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film and television executive, and star of the sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy and Life With Lucy...

 and Red Skelton
Red Skelton
Richard Bernard "Red" Skelton was an American comedian who is best known as a top radio and television star from 1937 to 1971. Skelton's show business career began in his teens as a circus clown and went on to vaudeville, Broadway, films, radio, TV, night clubs and casinos, all while pursuing...

 in Technicolor
Technicolor
Technicolor is a color motion picture process invented in 1916 and improved over several decades.It was the second major process, after Britain's Kinemacolor, and the most widely used color process in Hollywood from 1922 to 1952...

.

Medieval beliefs


Red hair was thought to be a mark of a beastly sexual desire and moral degeneration. A savage red-haired man is portrayed in the fable by Grimm brothers (Der Eisenhans
Iron John
"Iron John" is a German fairy tale found in the collections of the Brothers Grimm, tale number 136, about a wild man and a prince...

) as the spirit of the forest of iron. Theophilus Presbyter
Theophilus Presbyter
Theophilus Presbyter is the pseudonymous author or compiler ofa Latin text containing detailed descriptions of various medieval arts, a text commonly known as the Schedula diversarum artium or De diversis artibus , probably first compiled between 1100 and 1120...

 describes how the blood of a red-haired young man is necessary to create gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 from copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

, in a mixture with the ashes of a basilisk
Basilisk
In European bestiaries and legends, a basilisk is a legendary reptile reputed to be king of serpents and said to have the power to cause death with a single glance...

.

Montague Summers, in his translation of the Malleus Maleficarum
Malleus Maleficarum
The Malleus Maleficarum is an infamous treatise on witches, written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, an Inquisitor of the Catholic Church, and was first published in Germany in 1487...

, notes that red hair and green eyes were thought to be the sign of a witch, a werewolf
Werewolf
A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope , is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse...

 or a vampire
Vampire
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...

 during the Middle Ages;

Modern-day discrimination



In Britain, it has been speculated that the dislike of red hair may derive from the historical English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 sentiment that people of Irish or Celtic background, with a greater prevalence of red hair, were ethnically inferior.

In his book "I Say No" Wilkie Collins
Wilkie Collins
William Wilkie Collins was an English novelist, playwright, and author of short stories. He was very popular during the Victorian era and wrote 30 novels, more than 60 short stories, 14 plays, and over 100 non-fiction pieces...

 (1885) wrote "The prejudice against habitual silence, among the lower order of the people, is almost as inveterate as the prejudice against red hair."

In modern-day UK, the words "ginger" or "ginga" are sometimes derogatorily used to describe red-headed people ("ginger" is not often considered insulting; the abbreviation "ginge" is much more commonly used derogatorily), with terms such as "gingerphobia" (hatred towards redheads) or "gingerism" (prejudice against redheads) used by the British media. In Britain, redheads are also sometimes referred to disparagingly as "carrot tops" and "carrot heads". (The comedian "Carrot Top
Carrot Top
Scott Thompson , better known by his stage name Carrot Top, is an American comedian known for his bright red hair, prop comedy, and self-deprecating humor.-Early years:...

" uses this stage name.) "Gingerism" has been compared to racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

, although this is widely disputed, and bodies such as the UK Commission for Racial Equality
Commission for Racial Equality
The Commission for Racial Equality was a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom which aimed to tackle racial discrimination and promote racial equality. Its work has been merged into the new Equality and Human Rights Commission.-History:...

 do not monitor cases of discrimination and hate crimes against redheads. A UK woman recently won an award from a tribunal after being sexually harassed and receiving abuse because of her red hair; a family in Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is a city and metropolitan borough of Tyne and Wear, in North East England. Historically a part of Northumberland, it is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne...

, England, was forced to move twice after being targeted for abuse and hate crime on account of their red hair; and in 2003, a 20 year old was stabbed in the back for "being ginger". In May 2009, a British schoolboy committed suicide after being bullied for having red hair. The British singer Mick Hucknall
Mick Hucknall
Michael "Mick" Hucknall is a British singer and songwriter. He was the lead singer of the British band Simply Red, and is recognisable for his smooth, distinctive voice and wide vocal range, as well as his red curly hair.-Early life:...

, who believes that he has repeatedly faced prejudice or been described as ugly on account of his hair color, argues that Gingerism should be described as a form of racism.

This prejudice has been satirised on a number of TV shows. The British comedian Catherine Tate
Catherine Tate
Catherine Tate is an English actress, writer, and comedian. She has won numerous awards for her work on the sketch comedy series The Catherine Tate Show as well as being nominated for an International Emmy Award and four BAFTA Awards...

 (herself a redhead) appeared as a red-haired character in a running sketch of her series The Catherine Tate Show
The Catherine Tate Show
The Catherine Tate Show is a British television sketch comedy written by Catherine Tate and Aschlin Ditta. Tate also stars in all but one of the show's sketches, which feature a wide range of characters. The Catherine Tate Show airs on BBC Two and is shown worldwide through the BBC...

. The sketch saw fictional character Sandra Kemp, who was forced to seek solace in a refuge for ginger people because they had been ostracised from society. The British comedy Bo' Selecta!
Bo' Selecta!
Bo' Selecta! is a British sketch show written and performed by Leigh Francis, known for its often deeply surreal, abstract toilet humour, which lampoons popular culture. It was broadcast on Channel 4 and ran for three series between 2002 and 2004, spawning several spin-offs...

(starring redhead Leigh Francis
Leigh Francis
Leigh Szaak Francis is an English impressionist born in Leeds. He is best known for his work as the creator of Channel 4's Bo' Selecta!, and for his portrayal of Keith Lemon for several ITV programmes. Francis lives in Camden Town, London, and on October 31, 2003, at Allerton Castle, North...

) featured a spoof documentary which involved a caricature of Mick Hucknall
Mick Hucknall
Michael "Mick" Hucknall is a British singer and songwriter. He was the lead singer of the British band Simply Red, and is recognisable for his smooth, distinctive voice and wide vocal range, as well as his red curly hair.-Early life:...

 presenting a show in which celebrities (played by themselves) dyed their hair red for a day and went about daily life being insulted by people. The pejorative use of the word "ginger" and related discrimination was used to illustrate a point about racism and prejudice in the "Ginger Kids
Ginger Kids
"Ginger Kids" is the 136th episode of Comedy Central's series South Park. It originally aired on November 9, 2005. The episode caused a controversy after its ironic premise was misunderstood by people who acted violently against gingers...

", "Le Petit Tourette
Le Petit Tourette
"Le Petit Tourette" is the eighth episode of the eleventh season of the animated television series South Park, and the 161st episode overall. It first aired on Comedy Central in the United States on October 3, 2007. This episode marked the beginning of the second half of the eleventh season...

", "It's a Jersey Thing
It's a Jersey Thing
"It's a Jersey Thing" is the ninth episode of the fourteenth season of the American animated television series South Park, and the 204th episode of the series overall. It premiered on Comedy Central in the United States on October 13, 2010. In the episode, New Jersey is rapidly taking over the...

" and "Fatbeard
Fatbeard
"Fatbeard" is the seventh episode of the thirteenth season of the American animated television series South Park, and the 188th overall episode of the series. It originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on April 22, 2009 and in the United Kingdom on April 24, 2009. It was the...

" episodes of South Park
South Park
South Park is an American animated television series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central television network. Intended for mature audiences, the show has become famous for its crude language, surreal, satirical, and dark humor that lampoons a wide range of topics...

.

In America, film and television programmes often portray school bullies as having red hair; for example, Scut Farkus from A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Christmas comedy film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. It was directed by Bob Clark...

or the O'Doyle family in the movie Billy Madison
Billy Madison
Billy Madison is a 1995 American comedy film directed by Tamra Davis and starring Adam Sandler, in the title role, Bradley Whitford, Bridgette Wilson, Norm Macdonald and Darren McGavin. The film was written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy, and produced by Universal Studios. It made over $25.5 million...

. The bully character Caruso in Everybody Hates Chris
Everybody Hates Chris
Everybody Hates Chris is an African American television period sitcom inspired by the teenage experiences of comedian Chris Rock , while growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York . The show is set from 1982 to 1987; however, Rock himself was a teenager during years...

is a redhead. However, children with red hair are often themselves targeted by bullies; "Somebody with ginger hair will stand out from the crowd," says anti-bullying expert Louise Burfitt-Dons
Louise Burfitt-Dons
Louise Olivian Burfitt-Dons is an English writer, humanitarian and global warming campaigner who is best known for her anti-bullying activism as the founder of the charity Act Against Bullying....

.

In Australian slang, redheads are often referred to as rangas (a word derived from the red-haired ape, the orangutan), sometimes with derogatory connotations.

In November 2008 social networking website Facebook
Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...

 received criticism after a 'Kick a Ginger' group, which aimed to establish a "National Kick a Ginger Day" on November 20, acquired almost 5,000 members. A 14-year-old boy from Vancouver who ran the Facebook group was subjected to an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police , literally ‘Royal Gendarmerie of Canada’; colloquially known as The Mounties, and internally as ‘The Force’) is the national police force of Canada, and one of the most recognized of its kind in the world. It is unique in the world as a national, federal,...

 for possible hate crimes.

In December 2009 British supermarket chain Tesco
Tesco
Tesco plc is a global grocery and general merchandise retailer headquartered in Cheshunt, United Kingdom. It is the third-largest retailer in the world measured by revenues and the second-largest measured by profits...

 was forced to withdraw a Christmas card
Christmas card
A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas in order to convey between people a range of sentiments related to the Christmas and holiday season. Christmas cards are usually exchanged during the weeks preceding Christmas Day by many people in Western...

 which had the image of a child with red hair sitting on the lap of Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

, and the words: "Santa loves all kids. Even ginger ones" after customers complained the card was too offensive.

In October 2010, Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman
Harriet Ruth Harman QC is a British Labour Party politician, who is the Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham, and was MP for the predecessorPeckham constituency from 1982 to 1997...

, the former Equality Minister in the British government under Labour, faced accusations of prejudice, after she described the red-haired Treasury secretary Danny Alexander
Danny Alexander
Daniel Grian Alexander is a British Liberal Democrat politician who has been Chief Secretary to the Treasury since 2010. He has been the Member of Parliament for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey constituency since 2005....

 as a "ginger rodent". Alexander responded to the insult by stating that he was "proud to be ginger". Harman was subsequently forced to apologise for the comment, after facing criticism for prejudice against a minority group.

In September 2011, Cryos International, one of the world's largest sperm bank
Sperm bank
A sperm bank, semen bank or cryobank is a facility that collects and stores human sperm mainly from sperm donors, primarily for the purpose of achieving pregnancies through third party reproduction, notably by artificial insemination...

s, announced that it would no longer accept donations from red-haired men due to low demand from women seeking artificial insemination
Artificial insemination
Artificial insemination, or AI, is the process by which sperm is placed into the reproductive tract of a female for the purpose of impregnating the female by using means other than sexual intercourse or natural insemination...

.

Use of term in East Asia to refer to ethnic European people


The term ang mo
Ang Mo
Ang mo or Ang moh is a racial epithet describing Caucasian , mainly in Malaysia and Singapore. It literally means "red-haired" and originates from Hokkien...

in Hokkien (Min Nan
Min Nan
The Southern Min languages, or Min Nan , are a family of Chinese languages spoken in southern Fujian, eastern Guangdong, Hainan, Taiwan, and southern Zhejiang provinces of China, and by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora....

) Chinese means "red-haired", and is used in Malaysia and Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 to refer to white people. The epithet is sometimes rendered as ang mo kui meaning "red-haired devil", similar to the Cantonese term gweilo
Gweilo
Gweilo or Gwailo is a common Cantonese slang term for foreigners, and has a long history of racially deprecatory use. If there is some racially deprecatory meaning or it is expressive of hate, it is shown by the addition of the adjective, sei or as a prefix: seigwailo...

("foreign devil"). Thus it is viewed as racist and derogatory by some Caucasians. Others, however, maintain it is acceptable. Despite this ambiguity, it is a widely used term. It appears, for instance, in Singaporean newspapers such as The Straits Times
The Straits Times
The Straits Times is an English language daily broadsheet newspaper based in Singapore currently owned by Singapore Press Holdings . It is the country's highest-selling paper, with a current daily circulation of nearly 400,000...

, and in television programmes and films.

The Chinese characters for ang mo are the same as those in the historical Japanese term Kōmō , which was used during the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

 (1603–1868) as an epithet for (northwestern European) white people. It primarily referred to Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 traders who were the only Europeans allowed to trade with Japan during Sakoku
Sakoku
was the foreign relations policy of Japan under which no foreigner could enter nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death. The policy was enacted by the Tokugawa shogunate under Tokugawa Iemitsu through a number of edicts and policies from 1633–39 and remained in effect until...

, its 200-year period of isolation.

Red hair festival


Redheadday
Redheadday
Redhead Day is the name of a Dutch summer festival that takes place each first weekend of September in the city of Breda, in the Netherlands. The two-day festival is a gathering of people with natural red hair, but is also focused on art related to the colour red...

 is the name of a Dutch festival that takes place each first weekend of September in the city of Breda
Breda
Breda is a municipality and a city in the southern part of the Netherlands. The name Breda derived from brede Aa and refers to the confluence of the rivers Mark and Aa. As a fortified city, the city was of strategic military and political significance...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. The two-day festival is a gathering of people with natural red hair, but is also focused on art related to the color red. Activities during the festival include lectures, workshops and demonstrations.

Religious and mythological traditions


In the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

, Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

' hair is described as ξανθῆς, usually translated as blonde, or golden but sometimes as red or tawny. His son Neoptolemus
Neoptolemus
Neoptolemus was the son of the warrior Achilles and the princess Deidamia in Greek mythology. Achilles' mother foretold many years before Achilles' birth that there would be a great war. She saw that her only son was to die if he fought in the war...

 also bears the name Pyrrhus, a possible reference to his own red hair.

The Norse god Thor
Thor
In Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing, and fertility...

 is usually described as having red hair.

Esau
Esau
Esau , in the Hebrew Bible, is the oldest son of Isaac. He is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, and by the minor prophets, Obadiah and Malachi. The New Testament later references him in the Book of Romans and the Book of Hebrews....

's entire body is supposed to have been covered with red hair. King David is also known for having red hair, based on the description of his physical appearance as admoni, the Biblical Hebrew word normally interpreted to mean "ruddy
Ruddy
Ruddy is a reddish-rosy crimson colour, closer to red than to rose.A brownish shade of ruddy called ruddy brown is often referred to simply as ruddy when referring to animals....

", or "red-haired".

Early artistic representations of Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples, and the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons", conventionally interpreted as referring to complex illnesses...

 usually depict her as having long flowing red hair, although a description of her hair color was never mentioned in the Bible, and it is possible the color is an effect caused by pigment degradation in the ancient paint.

Red is the preferred dyeing color
Hair coloring
Hair coloring is the practice of changing the color of hair. Common reasons are to cover gray hair, to change to a color regarded as more fashionable or desirable, and to restore the original hair color after it has been discolored by hairdressing processes or sun bleaching...

 in Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. It is said that Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 used to dye his hair red.

Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

 is also represented with red hair in Spanish culture and in the works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, reinforcing the negative stereotype. In Spain the prejudice is extended to so-colored cats and dogs.

There is a tradition amongst astrologers
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

 that the planet Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 ("the red planet") is more likely to be rising above the eastern horizon (on or near the astrological Ascendant
Ascendant
The ascendant , or rising sign, is the zodiacal sign and degree that was ascending on the eastern horizon at the specific time and location of an event. According to astrological theory, celestial phenomena reflect or determine human activity on the principle of 'as above so below'...

, which supposedly influences a person's appearance) at the time of the birth of a red haired person than for the population in general.

External links