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As royal watchers await images of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby boy, punters are having a flutter on his name and whether he will have Harry’s ginger hair. With redheads making up approximately 1–2% of the world’s population, how likely is it that baby Archie will have red hair? Bookmakers William Hill priced the odds on a red-haired baby as 3/1.

It had previously been thought that the inheritance of a single recessive gene, MC1R, controlled whether or not a person would inherit red hair. However, eight genes linked to red hair have been discovered by Scottish researchers in the largest genetic study of hair colour to date. Almost 350,000 DNA tests were performed on people who took part in the UK Biobank study.

People with red hair inherit two versions of the MC1R gene, one from each biological parent. Prince Harry clearly has these two genes. However, not everyone carrying these two MC1R versions will automatically become a redhead, which means that other genes had to be involved. The scientists from Edinburgh University discovered that some of the newly identified genes work by controlling when MC1R is switched on or off.

In Europe, redheads are more common among the northern and western fringes, with Ireland and Scotland having much higher levels. Red hair is much less common in people of African descent, which might reduce Meghan’s chances of having the MC1R gene.

Author Jacky Colliss Harvey, who wrote Red: A History of the Redhead, told USA Today she and fellow redheads in the UK were quietly hoping for a ginger prince or princess.

“All of us redheads in the UK are wildly excited about the possibility of a red-haired baby – fingers crossed”, she said. For further information on AlphaBiolabs’ DNA testing services, please call us on 0333 600 1300 or email customerservices@alphabiolabs.com.