Edinburgh Named Redheaded Capital of the UK

Researchers from Britain’s DNA have produced the first ever map of redheaded nations and cities, with Edinburgh coming out on top in full ginger bloom. The study found that 40% of the Scottish capital’s population carry one of the three common red hair gene variants, higher than anywhere else in the UK and Irish Republic.

Scotland also has the world’s highest proportion of redheads, with 13% of the Scottish population (650,000 people) having red hair, and 30% (or 1.6 million) Scots carrying the gene. While 1 to 2% of the world’s population are red headed, large-scale emigration from Ireland and Scotland has resulted in the USA possessing the largest population of red-heads. Estimates vary from 6 to 18 million, or 10% of the population.

The study also revealed that red hair is a reaction not to cold, but to a lack of sunshine. In areas where the temperatures in summer were cooler and winter days were shorter – such as in Scotland – people with ginger hair were more likely to survive and evolve.

Dr Jim Wilson, a geneticist at Edinburgh University, said he was most surprised to learn that the Lothian and Borders were the most red headed areas in the country, and not Scotland’s far flung islands. He said the lower percentages for the gene variants in the south of England and the far north of Scotland suggested that Anglo Saxons diluted the red headed gene in England, and Norse Vikings diluted it in the north and west of Scotland.

In order to produce red haired offspring, both parents have to have just one of the gene variants which means that generations of families can have no redheads before apparently producing a redheaded child “out of nowhere”.

Alistair Moffat, managing director of Britain’s DNA, said: “Since red hair is recessive, children born with red hair need both parents to be carriers of one of the red hair gene variants, but millions of people in Britain and Ireland have no idea that they are carriers. The project reveals just how red headed a nation we really are.”


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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