Red hair

From Academic Kids

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A woman with dyed red hair

Red hair is a hair color shared by several species, among them humans, orangutans and horses. Although red hair in the human population is most commonly associated with those of British or Irish descent, dark red or reddish-tinged hair can be found in a few other Caucasian populations, for example among Iranians. It is also sometimes found in other areas—for instance, to a small degree in Japan. Some believe that the cluster of red-heads in the British Isles can be associated with Pictish or Celtic ancestry, and certainly Scotland has the highest proportion of red-heads of any country worldwide with 13% of the population having red hair. A further 40% of Scots carry the so-called "ginger gene". Ireland has the second highest red-headed population in the world amounting to 10% of its inhabitants.

It is estimated that between 2% and 5% of the United States population have red hair.

Red hair is significantly thicker than the hair of people of European descent with other hair colours. The numerical density of hairs on the head in red-heads is also lower.

In cases of severe malnutrition, normally dark human hair may turn red or blond. The condition, known as kwashiorkor, is a sign of critical starvation caused chiefly by protein deficiency, and is common during periods of famine.


Biochemistry and genetics of red hair

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Elsie Tanner, a character on the British soap opera Coronation Street, was known for her red hair and, stereotypically, for her fighting spirit.

The biochemistry of red hair appears to be associated with the melanocortin-1 receptor while the red colour itself is produced by an iron compound. The recessive gene which gives people red hair, fair skin and freckles is certainly older than 50,000 years, and it could be as old as 100,000 years. All red heads are MC1R variants, and the prevalence of these alleles is highest in Celtic countries.

The genetics of red hair is now being uncovered, together with connections between red hair and melanoma and other skin disorders, and red hair and problems with anaesthesia.

There is evidence for genetic linkage of eye color with other hair colors such as brown hair, so it would not be surprising if red hair were linked with eye color inheritance.

Social implications

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Because of it's comparative rareness, popular culture, particularly in the UK, sometimes discriminiates against those with red hair. Redheads are stereotyped as ugly and are often derogitively referred to as ginger. Many red headed children find themselves bullied often well into Secondary School.

One the other hand, there are some individuals who describe themselves as "redophiles". These people have a strong love for, and usually, are sexually attracted to redheads. As in any paraphilia, there are varying degrees to which a self-described redophile holds their desire. While some people favor the red hair solely for its exotic aesthetic pleasantness, others are more passionate and insist on giving their attentions only to natural redheads because they possess certain desired physical features such as pale skin that never tans, freckles, light pink areolas, and red pubic hair.

In addition to these physical traits, redophiles, as well as, to a certain degree, popular culture at large, also perceive redheads as being more passionate and adventurous than others people, both sexually and in a more general sense. This also extends to the stereotype that redheads have particuarly "fiery" tempers, and are more easily angered than others.

Myths and stories related to red hair

  • The Biblical mark of Cain is supposed by some to be red hair. Also Judas Iscariot is sometimes supposed to have been redheaded.
  • In artistic depictions Mermaids usually have red hair
  • Ancient Romans considered redheads to be unlucky.
  • Ancient Egyptians associated both red-haired humans and red-colored animals with the god Set, considering them to be favored by the powerful and temperamental deity. Several Pharoahs associated with Set are described as being red-headed.

See also

External links


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