Did the Celts Have Red Hair?


Celts, a tribe of Europeans ranging from locations in Britain, Ireland, France, and Spain, are known for various traditions that are still widely practiced today. The Celtic culture is still prominent in places like Britain and Ireland. Some may wonder what the Celts looked like in their time compared to modern-day Celts trying to keep traditions alive. 

The Celts did have red hair, but there were also Celts with lighter hair. Celts were from tribes across Europe, now known as Ireland and Great Britain. Often associated with red hair because of their modern foundings in Ireland, it’s important to remember how vast the celt community was.

Additionally, the Celts may be associated with red hair because many modern-day Celts live in Ireland, which is known for its redheads. The area where Celts had settled is what today is known as both Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish have one of the highest populations of red-headed people. 

red hair
Is red hair Irish or Scottish? See below

Is Red Hair Irish or Scottish?

The Irish and the Scottish are two distinct groups, though some people get them mixed up or associate one with the other. Irish people are descendants from Ireland, and Scottish people are descendants of Scotland, both of which are distinct nations. However, they both are often associated with red hair. 

Red hair is both Irish and Scottish, with the two countries having just a small difference in the commonness of the color. Approximately 10% of Ireland’s population has red hair, and 13% of Scotland’s population has red hair. The origins of the hair color can also be traced back to West Asia. 

Red hair is commonly associated with the Scottish because they have the highest population of redheads and red-headed gene carriers. [1] Ireland is next up on that list, with only 10% of its population having red hair.

Some studies have found that this number is a lot closer together. Still, it’s important to note there are also different classifications of redheads. [2]

Additionally, the red-haired gene is a notable statistic in both the Irish and Scottish communities. Though a larger population of redheads live in Scotland, there may be more red-haired gene carriers in Ireland. [3]

Red hair is a recessive gene. The science of genes and recessive traits means that for a child to be born with red hair, both parents would need to have the red-haired gene, even if they both aren’t red-headed. Even with both parents carrying the gene, there’d be only a 1-in-4 chance for the child to get red hair. 

Those odds are likely why not all – likely not even most – Celts had red hair, and not all of those who had red hair were Celts. Nonetheless, it was common to find a Celtic person with red hair. The Celts were described as redheads by the ancient Greek and Roman societies. 

The Greeks and Romans also cited them as being blond or fair-haired. There is nothing stating that all Celts had the red-haired characteristic, and travelers were likely surprised by the incidences they did see of red hair, especially if they’d never seen redheads before then. That is likely why it was noted.

Celtic girl
Where did red hair originally come from? See below

Where Did Red Hair Originally Come From?

Though information exists on the genetic history of red hair, historians still aren’t exactly sure where it originated. They know where red hair can be found in history, though, and may have even found some neanderthal connections to the MC1R gene.

Red hair possibly originated in West Asia. The red hair gene can be traced back to West Asia, around 70,000 years ago. There’s also proof of red hair in Europe from 30,000 years ago. The gene MC1R causes both instances.

Red hair is determined by a gene in MC1R. There have been instances of red hair not only in Europe but also in Asia. Red hair can be traced back over 70,000 years to West Asia, which is rarely associated with red hair. [4]

The MC1R gene’s mutation also makes skin fairer and produces freckles. Even though West Asia has the first instances of red hair, it’s extremely rare to find. 

Red hair may not have originated in Ireland or Scotland, but it thrives there. Some genetic theorists believe that red hair is evolutionary significant in that it also usually is associated with fair skin. 

In an evolutionary sense, this hair color may have survived best in places where the sun could not damage the skin as thoroughly. Because of the climate in Europe, the red-hair gene likely survived because those with red hair did not succumb to illness or injury due to the sun.

red hair
How did the Celts wear their hair? See below

How Did the Celts Wear Their Hair?

Just as there are hair trends regionally and based on the era, the Celts were known for a few different things. Their favoring of long hairstyles made the Romans refer to their land as “Long-Haired Gual,” as it was not as common in their tribes for hair to be worn so long. These traditions made them distinct from other tribes of the time, such as the Romans or the Greeks.

Celts commonly wore their hair long, put into braids, or left to curl. Men had shorter hair and wore beards and mustaches. On the other hand, warriors used lime water to create mane-like hairstyles. 

For a ceremony, the long hair of a Celt may have been curled or braided. The Celts were known for incorporating knots into their braids. Celts also used pins and fabric to add to their hair. 

Additionally, men were likely to have beards and mustaches even when the Romans had dominated the Celts. Some believe that it was a sign of weakness if a Celt did not grow any facial hair. Men also wore ornaments in their hair, such as hooks or swordlets. 

This traditional way of wearing their hair applied to all Celtic people, whether their hair was blond, red, brown, or gray. 

Conclusion

The Celts, though commonly associated with red hair because of their connection to Ireland, weren’t all red-headed. Some had “fair” hair or blond hair. 

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source

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