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What ethnicity has auburn hair color?

Auburn hair is a reddish-brown hair color that stands out for its warm, rich tones. While auburn hair can occur naturally across many ethnicities, it is most commonly associated with people of Northern and Western European descent.

Overview of Auburn Hair

Auburn hair is characterized by a reddish-brown hue with visible variations and mixtures of dark blonde and brown. The range of shades in auburn hair allows it to appear anywhere from light copper to deeper burgundy depending on lighting conditions and styling.

Unlike red hair, which contains a high concentration of the reddish pigment pheomelanin, auburn hair has a more even ratio of pheomelanin to brownish eumelanin pigments. This balance creates a softened reddish-brown blend rather than a bold red. Auburn is considered a variety of natural red hair.

Auburn hair occurs across a spectrum of warm medium to light reddish-brown shades. Here are some common descriptor terms used for shades of auburn hair:

  • Light auburn – A lighter, softer copper tone.
  • Dark auburn – A deeper red-brown shade veering toward burgundy.
  • Chestnut – Dark auburn with brown tones.
  • Reddish brown – A warmer brown with obvious red hues mixed in.
  • Strawberry blonde – An auburn with golden blonde highlights.

As an intermediate hair color falling between blond and brown hair, auburn hair is generally categorized as a variety of red hair. Natural levels of the red pigment pheomelanin are responsible for creating true auburn hair.

Ethnicities with Higher Rates of Natural Auburn Hair

While auburn hair can potentially occur in people of any ethnicity, certain populations show a higher prevalence of natural true auburn hair.

Some key ethnicities and regions associated with higher rates of reddish-brown auburn hair include:

  • Northern European – Especially Scandinavia and the British Isles.
  • Western European – Particularly France and the Benelux countries.
  • Central Europe – Especially Germany, Austria, Hungary and Poland.
  • Celtic heritage – Such as Irish, Welsh and Scottish.
  • Baltic region – Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Additionally, ashkenazi Jewish and Iranian populations have incidences of reddish hair exceeding 10%.

This distribution pattern of auburn hair correlates to areas of lighter pigmentation and relatively higher levels of pheomelanin production. The coolest climate zones of North and West Europe also see the highest percentages of medium to light brown hair colors in which auburn hues are most vivid.

Northern European and Celtic Ethnicities

Ethnic groups of Northern European and Celtic descent demonstrate some of the highest rates of natural auburn hair globally. These ethnicities originated in cooler climate regions of Europe.

Studies of hair color by country show prevalence of auburn hair among native population at:

  • Scotland – 13%
  • Wales – 11%
  • Ireland – 10%
  • Finland – 10%
  • Sweden – 4%
  • Iceland – 3%

Red hair expression is believed to have originated among populations around the Baltic sea before spreading to other areas of Northern Europe. The trait likely became concentrated in groups that migrated to the British Isles.

Natural selection and sexual selection are hypothesized reasons this hair phenotype prevailed at significant frequencies among Celtic and Scandinavian groups. The vivid rufous locks stood out and may have been considered attractive in these regions.

Scottish and Irish

Scottish and Irish ethnicities show some of the highest percentages of natural reddish hair. Their Celtic origins gave rise to the iconic image of flaming ‘ginger’ hair.

Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads at around 13% of the population. Ireland follows close behind at approximately 10%.

Within these populations, reddish hair color occurs at its densest amongst people of Gaelic heritage in the north and west of Scotland and Ireland. These regions were least exposed to outside genetic influence.


Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark also exhibit relatively high rates of reddish hair. Among these populations, Finland shows the highest percentage at around 10%.

The Sami indigenous people of northern Scandinavia have some of the highest observed levels of natural red hair in the world. Around 40% of Sami people have red hair.

Experts propose the Sami and other northern Scandinavian groups developed high rates of red hair as an adaptation to the uniquely low light conditions in Arctic regions. Auburn tresses allowed for optimal absorption of scarce UV rays to produce vitamin D.

Central and Western Europe

In mainland Europe, natural auburn hair appears at its highest levels across an area including Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary and down to northern Italy. Red hair frequencies in these countries range between 4-6% of native populations.

The Netherlands and Belgium (3-4%) as well as France (3-6%) also have appreciable percentages of natural red hair, including many auburn shades.

Some researchers connect Continental Europe’s auburn hair distributions to ancient migrations of Celtic people and Germanic tribes that originated by the North and Baltic seas. The Rhine river may have served as a conduit of reddish hair genes from north to south.

Ashkenazi Jewish Ethnicity

Ashkenazi Jewish populations across Europe also demonstrate notable levels of natural red hair compared to European averages. Estimates place the percentage of ashkenazi Jews with natural red hair color in the range of 10 to 15%.

Genetic analysis suggests that ashkenazi Jews mixed with European populations in Germany before later migrating east and north. This intermingling, particularly with Northern and Eastern European groups, introduced variants for red hair.

Famous figures like Louis B. Mayer, Judd Apatow and Ayelet Zurer provide examples of ashkenazi Jews exhibiting common auburn shades. The relatively high incidence likely relates to partly sharing Northern and Eastern European ancestral origins where red hair was common.

Iranian and Persian Ethnicities

Natural red hair occurs in Iran and Northern India at frequencies not widely known. Estimates suggest about 10% of native Iranians (Persians) have some variety of natural red hair.

Genetic studies point to ancient migrations of peoples from Northern Europe and the Eurasian steppe into Iran as a source of genetic variants causing red hair. Persian history also documents intermixing with Caucasus populations higher in rufosity like Armenians.

Notable Iranians displaying auburn hair types include Queen Pari Khan Khanoom and actress Golshifteh Farahani. Sporadic red hair in these Western Asian regions represents ancient Caucasian and Indo-European genetic influence.

Auburn Hair Worldwide

While auburn hair reaches peak expression in certain ethnicities, it can arise across global populations. Here is the estimated percentage of natural redheads by regional ancestry:

Region Red Hair Percentage
Northern European 1-10%
Western European 2-6%
Eastern European 2-4%
Southern European 1-3%
Central European 2-5%
Middle East 1-5%
Central Asian 1-3%
South Asian 1-2%
East Asian Less than 1%
African Less than 1%
Americas 1-2%
Oceania 2-5%

This data shows certain ancestral ethnicities favor the expression of auburn related reddish hair. However, genetic variants for pheomelanin production arose independently in diverse populations over time. So while uncommon, authentic auburn hair can appear in people of any background.


In summary, auburn hair remains iconically associated with ethnicities of North and West European descent, particularly Celtic and Germanic heritage. Highest frequencies of true reddish brown hair occur among Scottish, Irish, Scandinavian and Baltic region populations.

Notable incidences likewise arise in other European groups as well as Western Asian and Jewish populations representing ancient migrations and mixing with North Europeans. While least common among East Asian and African ancestry, auburn hair can emerge in people of all backgrounds.

The distinctive warm glow of auburn hair has captivated people for millennia as a rare and special human variation. This gorgeous rufous hair color stands as a unique manifestation of our shared genetic diversity.