Whether you’re a redhead or a non-ginger, we bet you’ve always wondered, “Will I have a ginger baby?”
We believe there is nothing cuter than a redheaded child, so it’s only natural you want to know the odds of winning the genetic lottery and parenting ginger offspring. We explore the genetics and help you calculate if you will/might/won’t have redheaded babies.
What are the chances of having a ginger baby?
First things first. We’re talking about a recessive gene here. A redheaded child can only be born if both parents carry the gene. That’s very important to remember.
If one parent doesn’t carry the ginger gene, then your child will definitely not be ginger, no matter how hard you try (or how ginger one parent is) – both parents must carry it, whether they are redheads themselves or not.
How do you know if you have the ginger gene?
In the UK alone, it’s estimated that 40% of Britons carry the MC1R gene responsible for producing a ginger child. We like to call these people ‘Secret Gingers’ if they don’t have red hair themselves.
So when someone says, “Oh, did you hear how redheads are going extinct?”, remind them of how the ginger gene can go undetected for generations, and will only keep being passed around the world years to come. Redheads aren’t going anywhere.
Don’t know if you have the ginger gene? If you’re a redhead, you definitely have the gene, and because it’s recessive, you will always pass this gene on to any children you have. Also, if someone in your direct bloodline has red hair, even if you don’t have red hair yourself, this means you will also carry the ginger gene, but won’t necessarily be a redhead (more explanation in the table below). Otherwise, you can take a test to determine if you’re a secret ginger.
What is the MC1R ‘ginger gene’?
Melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is a protein that controls levels of melanin in your body. Melanin is made up of various amounts of eumelanin and pheomelanin and dictates the pigment of your skin, hair and eyes.
People with mostly eumelanin will have darker hair, eyes and skin that will tan more easily, and are better protected against UV radiation in sunlight. Redheads, however, have a mutated MC1R protein, giving them much more pheomelanin than eumelanin, making them more likely to have fair hair (usually red or blonde), freckles and pale skin, and will be more vulnerable to sun burn.
Will I have a ginger baby?
Below is a simple way for you to calculate your probability of having a ginger child with any given partner (as long as you know if they have the ginger gene).
|Parents||Natural redhead||Non-redhead with gene||Non-redhead, no gene|
|Natural redhead||100%||50%||0% but will carry the gene|
|Non-redhead with gene||50%||25%||0% but will carry the gene|
|Non-redhead, no gene||0% but will carry the gene||0% but will carry the gene||0%|
There are also other genes at play that affect your skin colour, freckles and hair shade, however, which is why on some occasions redheads may be able to tan, or may not have freckles.
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of ginger genetics!