Got Red Hair? Maybe You Should Thank a Viking

Red haired vikingCarrot Top, Ginger Snap, Dorito Head. If you have the world’s rarest hair color, you’ve heard all the cheesy nicknames. Well, maybe not that last one.

Red hair occurs in only 0.6 percent of people worldwide. In Scotland, however, upwards of  13 percent of people naturally sprout rusty locks and over 40 percent carry the ginger gene. Ireland also leads in a high percentage of red heads. Not surprisingly, that leads many red heads to attribute their fiery hair to Scottish or Irish heritage. But a leading scholar on the topic theorizes that these genes come from somewhere else.

Donna Heddle, chief of the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Center for Nordic Studies, claims red hair comes from Vikings and says “the perception that the Norse were blond is nothing more than a prevalent myth. Genetically speaking, the chances of them having blond hair weren’t that likely. The chances are that they would have had red hair. Interestingly, if you look at where red hair occurs in the world you can almost map it to Viking trading routes.” She goes on to say that “the red haired patterning…in Ireland, in particular, it is very much around the areas where Vikings settled.”

Heddle acknowledges that the topic needs more study and other experts in genetic ancestry like Dr. Jim Wilson claim that red hair is a trait of Northwestern Europe that likely has Celtic origins. Recently a paper published by Emily Pritchard, a genetics student at Edinburgh University, suggests that fair hair and red skin helped early Scots survive cool summers and short winter days because the adaptation helped their bodies produce greater amounts of vitamin D.

So if you share the doo donned by Beaker, Groundskeeper Willie, and Little Orphan Annie, don’t let anyone tease you and get away with it.  Perhaps Donna Heddle is right. You might have Viking blood running through your ginger veins. So utter a prayer to Thor for strength. Steal your bully’s lunch. Eat it in front of him. And shout “O’Doyle rules!”  Your ancestors would be proud.

(WARNING: Do not really steal people’s lunches. This may result in suspension, expulsion, termination, or a beat-down.)