I come from a family of redheads so it has been a topic at family gathering for as long as I can remember. My Grandmother is strawberry blonde and so is her daughter, who is my mother. My uncle, my mother’s brother, and his wife have 2 children with red hair. My cousin, on my father’s side, has auburn hair, which is reddish brown in color. She has a daughter with red hair. Needless to say, I have heard all the gene pool conversations since I was a little kid.
I should start by saying that, yes, my family has roots (no pun intended) in Scotland or Ireland. Most have been in America since the 1800s, but heredity is a critical factor. It has been stated that a variant of the red-hair gene originated in Europe 30,000 years ago. While up to 6% of northwestern Europeans have red hair, upwards of 13% of the population in Scotland claim fiery locks and over 30% carry the gene. The Scots beat the Irish, who have around 10% of their population as redheads but the Irish have the lead in carriers with nearly 50%!
My uncle was the first one I ever heard say that redheads would become extinct in the 21st century. I honestly think he was obsessed by articles he read that were released in 2005 and 2007 because he was the proud father of two gingers. He is blonde and his wife is brunette but the mutated gene, called the MC1R, scientifically named melanocortin-1 receptor, is a recessive trait and it takes both parents to pass it on. In my aunt and uncle’s case, both of their mothers’ are redheads. Recessive genes can skip a generation, as it was for them.
The human gene pool doesn’t include very many red hair genes.
So, are redheads really becoming extinct? The answer is NO! The answer is that simple but the math behind it isn’t. The calculations created by Dr. Barry Starr, from Stanford University, in 2014, could make any carrot top’s head spin! In short, the belief is that approximately 1% of the world’s population is a redhead. That puts the number of redheads at about 70 million, not a number likely to become extinct any time soon. According to the article, which uses the Hardy-Weinberg equation, carriers near the 300 million mark and will serve to procreate gingers for a long time to come.
Some believe the hype was started by companies who produce hair dye. Maybe the myth was started by people just jealous of those with the unique hair color or they wanted a nickname similar to ones the copper tops receive -something cool like Flame, Firecracker, Big Red, Rusty or Ginga. Regardless of where it originated, there is certainly enough scientific proof that redheads will be around for centuries to come. I know the topic won’t die around my family’s dinner table!
Chuckie Finster from “The Rugrats”
Links for Pictures:
Cousins: Family Pictures