back to article Crap Scottish weather favours ginger hair

A genetics research student has suggested that the comparatively high number of ginger-haired people among the Scots and Irish may be due in part to crap weather. While 1-2 per cent of the European population are ginger, this is around eight per cent in Scotland and Ireland. One reason, speculates Emily Pritchard, is that …


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  1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    While This Article...

    ...points to the lack of sun, and the negative effects of sunlight, the persistance of blonde and red haired genes also points to positive selection for increased vitamin D production in low light environments.

    Although in the USA we get vitamin D through drinking milk, i continue to prefer 211.

  2. Andrew Moore

    That's all well and good...

    ...but is she working on a cure yet?

    1. 3kids2cats1dog
      Thumb Up


      I Heart Gingers.

      1. fishman

        Ginger Or?

        I'll take Mary Ann

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Racism is alive and well

      If it was an article about black, asian, Jewish or any other genetic, ethnic or religious group, would you still consider your reply to be acceptable? Even as a joke?


      1. Cameron Colley

        RE: Racism is alive and well

        Wow, that fiery red-headed temper got the better of you did it?

        Have you never heard or told a blonde joke? Never laughed at someone being shorter or taller than average?

        I'm I could write an essay pointing out the socio economical differences between racism and people occasionally laughing at your hair -- but I'll leave that as an exercise for someone else.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          Trying living with red hair, then come back and tell me that it's all harmless jokes/banter. Moron.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A nice way of putting it.

    " "genetic bottlenecks" where small groups of humans with a common ancestry lived in stable communities, thereby increasing the chance of both parents carrying the genetic variation"

    So, inbreds then :-)

  4. Daniel 1

    And the other place where red hair is common is...


  5. Mal Adapted

    Ginger genes in Europe a long time

    They've been found in Neanderthal DNA:

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Ginger genes, but...

      If you actually read the article you've just cited, you'll see that while there was *a* ginger gene in Europe back then, this was not *the* ginger gene -- it was a different gene.

      Of course, if red hair evolved twice in Europe and fair hair once, that suggests that light pigmentation is more than merely "acceptable", but of a real evolutionary advantage -- and that would most likely be vitamin D production, as others have said.

  6. Coruscating Frenzy

    Ginger genes from what now?

    How does that work then? If the Celts didn't migrate into what is now Britain until approximately 400 years before the Romans arrived ( & ), exactly how did the Scottish (crap) weather put any sort of selective pressure on genes that were still resident in Central Europe some 40,000 years earlier?

    Perhaps your grasp of evolutionary time and the mechanisms of natural selection were obtained down on the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River :-)

    1. Bumpy Cat

      Not just migration

      There's a growing body of evidence that "migrations" were never wholesale replacements of the local population. There was usually a replacement of the elites (and thus culture, language and technology) but the bulk of the people remained in place as serfs or slaves.

      This especially applies to the nomadic warrior cultures, which garnered slaves faster than static cultures and attracted mercenaries through war booty.

  7. stu 4
    IT Angle


    I think it's more likely that the rest of the world has a more strict stance against the souless/ day walkers.

    Apparently the viking used to stone/burn ginger babies. Possibly this was a world wide practice.

    Maybe us scots and irish were just too sensitive and let the little devils' spawns live ?

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Stone them, really?

      That must mean that gingers are extinct, because ginger is originally a viking trait....

  8. LinkOfHyrule


    Some Gingerist comments here. I'm not a Ginge but I find them quite sexy, lay off the poor gingers please!

    1. Charles Manning


      I'm a ginger and I've been called all sorts of names and it has been insinuated that my mother had a period when I was conceived, etc etc etc, but ....

      I am less concerned about gingerism than I am about some perv out there with a ginger fetish.

  9. Ken 16

    Red haired men are just sexier, leading to an increase in population

    I admit my idea is "speculation rather than scientific study", but describe it as "plausible".

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Plausible speculation?

    I'm sure she has already rejected the proposition that the real reason the Scots exhibit gingerism more than other races is because of their love of deep-fried Mars Bars.

    Or is that another plausible speculation?

    ("Post hoc ergo propter hoc", I say...)

  11. Mal Adapted

    Re: Ginger genes, but...

    "If you actually read the article you've just cited,"

    Well, you've got some indomitable gall! What makes you think I didn't? Never said they were the same genes, now did I?

    Don't talk with your head empty.

  12. orangeracer

    more gingers please!

    Give me a red-hot ginger lover any day!

    (I'm a blondy btw)

  13. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    So wheres

    the gene that cause gingers to have no soul?

    <<been watching too much Southpark again

  14. orangeracer

    stone/burn Eric the Red?

    Also, how did this famous ginger escape the Viking rock-party?

  15. Paranoid Warming Climate Denier

    Only a ginger..

    Can call another ginger, ginger..

  16. Al Jones

    Source of her statistics?

    Not sure where she get's her numbers for the prevalence of red-hair in Ireland in Scotland - I seem to recall reading that the rate is pretty similar all over Northern Europe, and in my experience, you'll see more read-heads in Munich than in Dublin (though there are those who would suggest that that's because there are more Saxons than Celts in Dublin, but that's another argument altogether!).

    1. asdf

      must be confused

      I think most of the red headed Germans you were seeing pubes aren't that color (German women love dyeing their hair strawberry color). There are some but most I saw there where actually expats from UK.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hmmm red hairded women

    yum yum om nom nom

  18. Professor Quatermass

    It isn't the colour of ginger!

    Why oh why must people call redheads "ginger". The ginger I use in stir fries and lemon tea doesn't look anything like the hair colour of Julianne Moore, Clara Bow, Gillian Anderson, Molly Ringwald, Nicole Kidman, Evan Rachel Wood or my girlfriend.

    Let's say "redhead" or "red hair" ... let's do.

    1. Evil Auditor

      It's not the colour

      Redheads are called "ginger" because they are hot. You should know, stupid.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      You forgot...

      Annie Wersching.


  19. Stuart Halliday

    Oh please..

    It's obvious it's a cultural thing that made the red hair gene so expressive in Scotland.

    Even African people get the occasional red hair person but if it's not cultural attractive then that person will not get to pass their genes down to the next generation.

    I suggest in Scotland that the clan tribes we have, made red hair people look more attractive in some manner that enabled them to reproduce. Simple.

    Nothing to do with the Weather.

  20. copsewood

    Vitamin D and sunburn

    People with darker skins are more likely to suffer Vitamin D deficiency syndromes in places with abysmal winter light intensities. Gingers are more likely to suffer sunburn and skin cancer given excessive sun exposure in hotter climes. Nowadays darker skinned people can take winter supplements and fair skinned people can easily use suncream and hats, so its easier for people to live where a few hundred years ago they would have been genetically unsuited.

  21. Richard Cartledge


    Celtic is almost identical to Hebrew?Phoenecian in spoken form, and there are some parts of the middle east which have ginger haired people. (Note Hebrew as an ancient language, rather than Jewish, because it is likely the migration of these people predated Judaism)


    Byth lym mo thym nociothii nel ech an ti daisc machon

    Ys i do iebrim thyfe lyth chy lya chon temlyph ula.


    Beth liom' mo thime nociaithe, niel ach an ti dairie mae coinne

    Is i de leabhraim tafach leith, chi lis con teampluibh ulla.

    1. Bumpy Cat
      Thumb Up


      That's no surprise - Celtic is quite a pure form of the old Indo-European language, and of course ancient Phoenician would be quite close too. Sanskrit is another relatively true descendant, and there are recorded similarities between Welsh and Sanskrit.

    2. The Indomitable Gall


      Have you seen the Ploenulus yourself? The text you quote is quite different from the version on Google Books:

      " Byth ilymmoth ynnocho thuulech antidamaschon

      Ys sidobrim thyfel yth chyl ischon them liful "

      What is the provenance of the version you quote, and are you aware how the purported meaning of the Phoenician fits into the context of the surrounding Latin?

      Or are you merely parroting a largely discredited 18th century fetish that many nations had for the idea of being "the lost tribe of Israel"?

  22. That Awful Puppy


    Pale, freckly gingers, preferrably with sizeable, milky white chesticles ...


    (Mine's the one with Firecrotch Mag in the pocket.)

  23. Andrew Penfold

    Did the author read this back to himself:

    "...long after humanity had exited Africa in search of less sunny climes..."

    If "humanity" exited Africa, what does that make those who stayed in Africa? The Supreme Court called, they want their ignorance back.

    *Note the joke icon - Not accusing racism just surprised somebody else hasn't already pointed it out already!

  24. Dick Pountain

    Blue Joke

    Actually Billy Connelly arrived at this conclusion years ago, with his joke about "we Scots aren't white, we're *pale blue*"

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Go the gingers

    My brothers are full gingers, while I have blond hair and a red beard.

    I guess that's what we get for being a mixture of Irish, Scottish and Welsh.

    My kids on the other hand, have missed out on the red hair (but not the fiery tempers lol).

    1. Claus P. Nielsen

      Dominant spouse?

      Since red hair is mostly a recessive trait, it is likely that your spouse has dominant genes for hair color, which prevents your kids from showing their hidden genetic heritage from your side of the family.

      It may also be that your daughters have the genes for red beards, but are just not growing them.

      Next generation could be different.

      I have 2 redhead brothers (at least they were born that way - now the color has faded a bit).

      One of these married a redhead and has consistently been producing redheaded offspring (though the variation in actual color of the kids hair is quite large).

      1. Anonymous Coward


        > It may also be that your daughters have the genes for red beards, but are just not growing them.

        Please persuade them to keep on not growing red bears. Please. The images in my head are quite enough of that.

      2. Ross 7


        Oddly enough blonde is recessive to red as I recall, even tho you tend to see far more blondes than red heads. It;s the same with eye colour - blue is recessive to green but you hardly ever see people with green eyes.

        The vit D argument is a pretty strong one though - skin colour would be a selection factor, with fair being more likely to survive and pass on the genes than dark. Given that red is dominant to blonde you'll see a lot of red heads carrying blonde genes.

        Given the new research apparantly showing vit D is necessary to "prime" T cells to fight infection I can accept the argument - makes sense if nothing else.

    2. Evil Auditor

      Re red beard

      Maybe you, AC, can shed light on this all important question: why do ginger menso often* let their hair grow all over their face?

      (*no statistics involved here, just a personal impression)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ginger beard

        Red hair (because of the structure of it) tends to be alot stronger and more difficult to cut, and the skin of readheads, some what perversly on mother natures part, tends to be more sensative, so it is therefor shaveing is a pain.

        1. Evil Auditor

          Re Ginger beard

          Many thanks, AC. Though this raises two other questions:

          What about ginger women? I cannot recall having seen a ginger bearded women (perhaps I didn't realise it was a woman) so maybe male gingers can't be bothered to shave, i.e. have a lazy gene...

          And can mother nature be perverse?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I agree

          My hair is mousy brown and quite easy to cut, but my beard is dark red and really wiry. It'd be easier to simply hammer it through the cheeks and chew it off on the inside than shaving it off (it eats shavers at a frightening pace), so I let it grow and trim it with the hedge cutters occasionally. Besides, it provides quite a bit of facial armour and is nice and warm in the winter, so no harm done. And dogs love it - or maybe that's just the taste of the last five meals hanging around, can't really tell.

          1. Evil Auditor


            Icon says it all. It was quite an expensive one.

  26. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    And this is news how?

    Is this a newspaper dumbing down science, or a "researcher" from the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious? I recall my secondary school textbook discussed the role of melanin in protecting against sunburn and skin cancer, and also mentioned a re-occurrence of rickets in northern parts of Britain among the children of African and Asian immigrants. The theory is obvious, what would be interesting, and real science, would be an experiment or study designed to test the theory.

    Maybe I've got a chance of getting a research grant for my ground-breaking theory that the average height of people in Hong Kong is lower than in London because of the evolutionary advantage of not being repeatedly whacked about the head by low-hanging street signs?

  27. Neoc


    "I always wanted to be Ginger" -- Greebo

    And yes, I have red hair.

  28. Oliver 7


    This study is cod-science. Gingerism in Scotland clearly comes from all the Irn Bru we drink, hence the Glasgow colloquial 'ginger', meaning Irn Bru. After all, it's made 'fae girders'.

    This also gives rise to the genetic mutation known as 'radge', similar to the Norse 'berserker'.

  29. ALBO

    If you think this story is interesting... should see what else the Edinburgh University Science (EUSci) magazine have been writing about,

    They have a podcast too.

  30. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    For every Julianne Moore, Clara Bow, Gillian Anderson, Molly Ringwald, Nicole Kidman, or Evan Rachel Wood

    there is a Mick Hucknell.


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