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The pigment pheomelanin gives red hair its distinctive color.Red hair has far more of the pigment pheomelanin than it has of the dark pigment eumelanin.Red hair (or ginger hair) occurs naturally in 1–2% of the human population.It occurs more frequently (2–6%) in people of northern or western European ancestry, and less frequently in other populations.Even if both parents do not have red hair themselves, both can be carriers for the gene and have a redheaded child.Genetic studies of dizygotic (fraternal) twins indicate that the MC1R gene is not solely responsible for the red hair phenotype; unidentified modifier genes exist, making variance in the MC1R gene necessary, but not always sufficient, for red hair production.

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Red hair varies in hues from a deep burgundy or bright copper (reddish-brown or auburn) through to burnt orange or red-orange and strawberry blond.Abd ar-Rahman I also had red hair, his mother being a Christian Berber slave.Red hair is also found amongst the Ashkenazi Jewish populations.Eighty percent of redheads have an MC1R gene variant, and the prevalence of these alleles is highest in Scotland and Ireland.Red hair can originate from several changes on the MC1R-gene.

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