Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Redheads, gingers, and strawberry blondes

One of the most intriguing hair colours is red, or ginger, or strawberry blonde. There are plenty of nicknames for redheads and some of them even relate to evil. There are also plenty of allegations, rumours and tales about people with red hair. Probably because humans with red hair are rare. And minorities easily become the scape goats of society as someone always needs to be blamed.

Although red hair is an almost exclusively northern and central European phenomenon, isolated cases have also been found in the Middle East, Central Asia (notably among the Tajiks), as well as in some of the Tarim mummies from Xinjiang, in north-western China. The Udmurts, an Uralic tribe living in the northern Volga basin of Russia, between Kazan and Perm, are the only non-Western Europeans to have a high incidence of red hair (over 10%). (source: Eupedia, also see Wikipedia)

The 45th parallel north, running through central France, northern Italy and Croatia, appears to be a major natural boundary for red hair frequencies. Under the 45th parallel, the UV rays become so strong that it is no longer an advantage to have red hair and very fair skin. Under the 41st parallel, redheads become extremely rare (Eupedia). The 41st parallel north is basically where Africa starts.

The origins of haplogroup R1b (LO: red hair) are complex, and shrouded in controversy to this day. The present author favours the theory of a Middle Eastern origin (a point upon which very few population geneticists disagree) followed by a migration to the North Caucasus and Pontic Steppe, serving as a starting point for a Bronze-age invasion of the Balkans, then Central and Western Europe. This theory also happens to be the only one that explains the presence of red hair among the Udmurts, Central Asians and Tarim mummies. (Eupedia)

Scientists do not rule out that red hair is inherited from the Neanderthals who evolved alongside Homo Sapiens for 600,000 years. A 2007 genetic study suggested some Neanderthals may have had red hair and blond hair, along with a light skin tone. However, this Neanderthal link may be totally wrong as the Neanderthal population became extinct within a few thousand years after arrival of Homo Sapiens in its territory. The fairly rapid extinction of the Neanderthal population is even the cause for several hypotheses. (Eupedia, other, GuardianWiki-1, Wiki-2)

A 2007 report in The Courier-Mail, which cited the National Geographic 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 article says that the foundation was funded by hair-dye maker Procter & Gamble, and that other experts had dismissed the research as either lacking in evidence or simply bogus. TheNational 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. (Wiki)

Nowadays, redheads are almost trendy: “6 Reasons You Need To Start Dating A Ginger Now” (men, women) compared to articles like: “Redheads Are Least Desirable To Men AND Women” (YT)

REM created the most dangerous of all musical redheads: one who’ll “cut your heart like diamonds” but who’s so alluring that kissing her is a must. Of course, the final line about keeping away from redheads is crap. (source)

R.E.M. – Redhead Walking (2008) – (artists, lyrics, Wiki)


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