Distribution of light hair and eyes in Europe

The first two maps have been taken from eupedia, which has colourized the maps contained in a paper by Peter Frost (2006), which in Frost’s words, were “reproduced from an anthropology textbook (Beals & Hoijer 1965, pp. 213-214). Beals and Hoijer, in turn, cite a textbook by another anthropologist, Frederick Hulse (1963: p. 328). Unfortunately, Hulse does not indicate the provenance of his data. I suspect he was using data from military recruits, with a lot of interpolation. Or perhaps he was using even earlier maps.”

Next, we have a map from Carleton Coon (‘The Races of Europe’), and attributed to ‘Elmer Rising’ (1939):

This map produced by Bertil Lundman (1965):

Here is a map created with 23andme data on a simple scale of more blue eyes to more brown:

From the paper “DNA-based eye colour prediction across Europe with the IrisPlex system.” These samples are drawn from specific regions, so they don’t necessarily represent the whole country. For example, the northern Italy sample has higher proportions of blue eyes than it would if it included southern Italy. The sample from Northern Ireland has higher proportion of blue eyes than I would expect based on other measurements of Ireland and Britain.

Finally, some extra data (locally collected, not national):

Two studies of different schools in Sweden found 79% and 79.6% blue eyes (“Frequency and Distribution Pattern of Melanocytic Naevi inSwedish 8–9-year-old Children” & “Prevalence of common and dysplastic naevi in a Swedish population”)

And another of a similar type in Estonia found 82% in Estonia (“Frequency and distribution pattern of melanocytic naevi in Estonian children and the influence of atopic dermatitis”)


Compare the above maps to the following genetic map of the averaged frequencies of 3 genes that are involved in light hair and eyes:


From a 2013 Slovenian study with 105 subjects (Prediction of eye color in the Slovenian population using the IrisPlex SNPs), 44.7% had blue eyes, 29.6% brown eyes, and 25.7% intermediate colours.

A world map of predicted eye colour based on genetic variants, from IrisPlex: A sensitive DNA tool for accurate prediction of blue and brown eye colour in the absence of ancestry information (2011)

2011 world eye map predictor colour

A world map of predicted hair colour based on genetic variants, from The HIrisPlex system for simultaneous prediction of hair and eye colour from DNA (2013)

2013 prediction of hair colour

Distribution of eye colours, based on phenotypes (pie chart shows size of sample), from Further development of forensic eye color predictive tests (2013)

ruiz et al 2013 - actual phenotype - pie chart proportional to size of sample

Phenotypes of sample in Spain, from Gender is a major factor explaining discrepancies in eye colour prediction based on HERC2/OCA2 genotype and the IrisPlex model (2013). Striped grey is blue eyes, light grey is intermediate, and dark grey is brown-eyes.

2013 spain map

Update II:

Data from the Blue Eyes Project run by ScotslandsDNA, map found on the Daily Mail:




Of course, light hair and eyes exist well outside of Europe as well.

See also my post on how the distribution of eye and hair colour is not evenly distributed between men and women.

12 thoughts on “Distribution of light hair and eyes in Europe

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    • Well the English DNA shows more blonde and blue than Holland or Germany, especially central England but the English were a Germanic tribe found along the Elbe River between the Czech Republic and Germany and we have a large Norwegian/Swedish ancestry also.

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