How many major races are there in the world?

The word “race,” denoting lineage, comes from a French translation of haras (silent “h”) into the Italian razza — which in Italian of that time applied to animals, not people. This points to current English and Italian usage being derived and adapted, respectively, from the French.

A human race is defined as a group of people with certain common inherited features that distinguish them from other groups of people. All men of whatever race are currently classified by the anthropologist or biologist as belonging to the one species, Homo sapiens.This is another way of saying that the differences between human races are not great, even though they may appear so, i.e. black vs white skin. All races of mankind in the world can interbreed because they have so much in common. All races share 99.99+% of the same genetic materials which means that division of race is largely subjective, and that the original 3-5 races were also probably just subjective descriptions as well.

The Major Divisions of the Human Race

Most anthropologists recognize 3 or 4 basic races of man in existence today. These races can be further subdivided into as many as 30 subgroups.

Ethnographic division into races from Meyers Konversationslexikon of 1885-90 is listing:

  • Caucasian races (Aryans, Hamites, Semites)
  • Mongolian races (northern Mongolian, Chinese and Indo-Chinese, Japanese and Korean, Tibetan, Malayan, Polynesian, Maori, Micronesian, Eskimo, American Indian),
  • Negroid races (African, Hottentots, Melanesians/Papua, “Negrito”, Australian Aborigine, Dravidians, Sinhalese)

Skull: Dolicephalic(Long-Head),High forehead,Little supraobital development.
Face: Mainly Leptoproscopic( Narrow)Sometimes Meso- or even Euryproscopic, Neither Facial nor alveolar prognathism occurs except among some archaic peoples.
Nose:Long,narrow,high in both root and bridge.

Skull: High incidence of Brachycephaly(Short Round Head)
American Indians while Mongoloid are often Dolicephalic.
Foreheads slightly lower than that of the Caucasoid.
No Supraobital development.
Face: Wide and short, projecting cheek bones, Prognathism rare. Shovel shaped incisors common especialy in Asia.
Nose: Mesorine(Low and Broad in both root and bridge.

Skull: usually Dolicephalic, a small minority are Brachycephalic.
Forehead most often high, little supraobital development.
Face: Leproscopic (to a much lesser degree than the Caucasion), Prognathism common in most Negro populations.
Nose: Low & broad in root and bridge with characteristic depression at root.

Another popular division recognizes 4 major races

The world population can be divided into 4 major races, namely white/Caucasian, Mongoloid/Asian, Negroid/Black, and Australoid. This is based on a racial classification made by Carleton S. Coon in 1962. There is no universally accepted classification for “race”, however, and its use has been under fire over the last few decades. The United Nations, in a 1950 statement, opted to “drop the term ‘race’ altogether and speak of “ethnic groups”. In this case, there are more than 5,000 ethnic groups in the world, according to a 1998 study published in the Scientific American.

What is Race?

What is Race? When some people use the “race” they attach a biological meaning, still others use “race” as a socially constructed concept.  It is clear that even though race does not have a biological meaning, it does have a social meaning which has been legally constructed.

Biological Construction

By . . .”biological race,” I mean the view of race espoused by Judge Tucker, and still popular today, that there exist natural, physical divisions among humans that are hereditary, reflected in morphology, and roughly but correctly captured by terms like Black, White, and Asian (or Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid). Under this view, one’s ancestors and epidermis ineluctably determine membership in a genetically defined racial group. The connection between human physiognomy and racial status is concrete; in Judge Tucker’s words, every individual’s race has been “stampt” by nature. . . .Despite the prevalent belief in biological races, overwhelming evidence proves that race is not biological. Biological races like Negroid and Caucasoid simply do not exist. A newly popular argument among several scholars, is that races are wholly illusory, whether as a biological or social concept. Under this thinking, if there is no natural link between faces and races, then no connection exists.

There are no genetic characteristics possessed by all Blacks but not by non- Blacks; similarly, there is no gene or cluster of genes common to all Whites but not to non-Whites. One’s race is not determined by a single gene or gene cluster, as is, for example, sickle cell anemia. Nor are races marked by important differences in gene frequencies, the rates of appearance of certain gene types. The data compiled by various scientists demonstrates, contrary to popular opinion, that intra-group differences exceed inter-group differences. That is, greater genetic variation exists within the populations typically labeled Black and White than between these populations. This finding refutes the supposition that racial divisions reflect fundamental genetic differences.

Notice this does not mean that individuals are genetically indistinguishable from each other, or even that small population groups cannot be genetically differentiated. Small populations, for example the Xhosa or the Basques, share similar gene frequencies. However, differentiation is a function of separation, usually geographic, and occurs in gradations rather than across fractures.. .. . .   The notion that humankind can be divided along White, Black, and Yellow lines reveals the social rather than the scientific origin of race. The idea that there exist three races, and that these races are “Caucasoid,” “Negroid,” and “Mongoloid,” is rooted in the European imagination of the Middle Ages, which encompassed only Europe, Africa, and the Near East.. . Nevertheless, the history of science has long been the history of failed efforts to justify these social beliefs. Along the way, various minds tried to fashion practical human typologies along the following physical axes: skin color, hair texture, facial angle, jaw size, cranial capacity, brain mass, frontal lobe mass, brain surface fissures and convolutions, and even body lice. As one scholar notes, “[t]he nineteenth century was a period of exhaustive and–as it turned out–futile search for criteria to define and describe race differences.”. . . Attempts to define racial categories by physical attributes ultimately failed. By 1871, some leading intellectuals had recognized that even using the word “race” “was virtually a confession of ignorance or evil intent.” The genetic studies of the last few decades have only added more nails to the coffin of biological race. Evidence shows that those features usually coded to race, for example, stature, skin color, hair texture, and facial structure, do not correlate strongly with genetic variation. . .  The rejection of race in science is now almost complete. In the end, we should embrace historian Barbara Fields’s succinct conclusion with respect to the plausibility of biological races: “Anyone who continues to believe in race as a physical attribute of individuals, despite the now commonplace disclaimers of biologists and geneticists, might as well also believe that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy are real, and that the earth stands still while the sun moves.”

. . .  Unfortunately, few in this society seem prepared to fully relinquish their subscription to notions of biological race.. . .[including the] Congress and the Supreme Court. Congress’ anachronistic understanding of race is exemplified by a 1988 statute that explains that “the term ‘racial group’ means a set of individuals whose identity as such is distinctive in terms of physical characteristics or biological descent.”  The Supreme Court, although purporting to sever race from biology, also seems incapable of doing so. In Saint Francis College v. Al-Khazraji, the Court determined that an Arab could recover damages for racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. . . Despite a seeming rejection of biological race, Justice White [stated]:  “The Court of Appeals was thus quite right in holding that § 1981, ‘at a minimum,’ reaches discrimination against an individual ‘because he or she is genetically part of an ethnically and physiognomically distinctive subgrouping of homo sapiens.”‘. . . By adopting the lower court’s language of genetics and distinctive subgroupings, Justice White demonstrates the Court’s continued reliance on blood as a metonym for race. . . .In Metrobroadcasting v. FCC,  Justice Scalia again reveals the Court’s understanding of race as a matter of blood. During oral argument, Scalia attacked the argument that granting minorities broadcasting licenses would enhance diversity by blasting “the policy as a matter of ‘blood,’ at one point charging that the policy reduced to a question of ‘blood . . .  blood, not background and environment.”‘

Social Construction

. . .  I define a “race” as a vast group of people loosely bound together by historically contingent, socially significant elements of their morphology and/or ancestry. I argue that race must be understood as a sui generis social phenomenon in which contested systems of meaning serve as the connections between physical features, races, and personal characteristics. In other words, social meanings connect our faces to our souls. Race is neither an essence nor an illusion, but rather an ongoing, contradictory, self-reinforcing process subject to the macro forces of social and political struggle and the micro effects of daily decisions. . . Referents of terms like Black, White, Asian, and Latino are social groups, not genetically distinct branches of humankind.


  1. K says

    ”Dravidian” is a cultural group not an ethnic group (genetic analysis found no difference between the so called ‘dravidians’ and other people’s of india). Also’ Aryans migrated only in limited numbers to india (that is if any migration took place at all). The fair skin gene came through many different peoples (not just aryans) into india and came at many different times…not just at the time of aryans ( aryan invasion or migration has still no archaehalogical evidence to support it).

    Look at modern day indians in south india (dravidians) and they are majority caucosoid in appearance.

    The three races…causcasoid, mongoloid and negroid are classified based on skeletal features of face and body…not colour of the skin. Skin colour changes in just a few generations depending on the level of sun exposure, but skeletal features dont.

  2. says

    all men originated from negroes, caucas…negro, mongol..negros etc… long ago they all lived like nations, and then, it was changed for color division, …..but why ?????

  3. DRock says

    Well one thing is for sure, per these comments. There are those who have a strong need for ‘race’ distinction. Only they know why.

  4. Jim says

    Furthermore I dislike the term ‘Caucasian’ as various populations that are distinct are being lumped together. It isnt very accurate when describing a middle eastern person or european.

    Eurasian populations share alot in common but also have unique differences as well. The topic of race shouldnt draw such negative emotion. I am aware of many of those who claim race is a social construct come from America and are some influential ‘biologists’ or ‘anthropoligists’… When I look at races I do not look at the ‘New World’ i.e. America or Mexico… too complex to compare them as there are many differences within new world populations and then there are none in some cases. The populations even of European Americans for example are different and share different genetics and when they became mixed it makes it even more difficult to classify groups here. The only new world population that should be compared to other ‘races’ globally should be Aboriginal Americans who are unmixed [they share alot in common with Siberians].

    In evolution the term race is used different than lets say comparing various human populations. There is validity to race in respect to mankind however our perception of it must not be political. Sadly any biologist, anthropologist, zoologist, psychologist, natural historian etc… who declares that there are differences and various races of humanity will lose his or her job sadly. That is wrong. Science has nothing to do with politics and if the far left and far right dislike that then tough shit. The only social constructs are political nut jobs.

    • HF says

      Most of us learned these facts in grade school, but today school fails to teach the important stuff that would help to prevent racial hatred. Example, Mexicans consider themselves to be of a different racial group than Caucasian when in fact they are Caucasian. Sorry to bust their bubble but the news media has lead them to believe a lie. You only need to look at skin color to determine the 3 or 4 human races. In the case of Germans they are Caucasian ( or White ).

      • Lt Col Richard Frederick, "Dickie" Dull, USAF, Ret. says

        What may be of interest to some is how the races and ethnic groups were created by God. In the book of Genesis the story of Noah and his family is recorded. Using the popular method of bible study (observe, interpret, apply) one may find that after the flood God issued certain orders and conveyed certain powers to Noah’s family (Genesis 9 English Standard Version (ESV)): 9: 1, And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth; Read Genesis 9: 2-3; and Genesis 9: 4-6. Once again God puts emphasis on filling the Earth in Genesis 9: 7. In Genesis 10 English Standard Version (ESV) God forms the Nations Descended from Noah. Rather than obey God and disperse over the Earth as they were told to do the world population migrated to a plain in a land of Shinar and settled there and began increasing in population and power. Their power was becoming such that they felt they no longer needed God
        (Genesis 11: 1-4).(4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”). Genesis 11: 5-32 shows how God confused the languages, dispersed the population throughout the Earth, and created the races and ethnic groups finally resulting in prejudice (“Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.)

        • Steve says

          Wonderful answer! And if God separated them; seeing as how He is all powerful; then don’t you think that He would place the ones that were similar in the same groupings? Ha, lets not forget that God has a plan and when He dispersed the folks across the earth, I’m sure He put like with like.

      • Dawn Janes says

        “Example, Mexicans consider themselves to be of a different racial group than Caucasian when in fact they are Caucasian.”

        Mexican, Latinos, Hispanics, Cubans, etc. are descendants of the continent of Asia. Therefore, they are not Caucasian, but of the Mongoloid race.

        • B Prospect says

          Sir get your facts straight before posting lies. They are not all descendants of Mongoloids, they are indeed a mix of Caucasians and mongoloids, in some countries, blacks as well.

      • Togan qhan says

        Why would u say that mexicans are white?that is not a fact . Mexicans speak spanish spanish is a caucasian language. The spaniards conquered most of south america an inslaved and killed alot of south americans rapped there people an forced Christianity on them.

  5. MelanesianSensation says

    And isn’t “Aryan” a term used by Nazi’s and Neo-Nazi’s? Isn’t the correct term “European’.. Is the writer racist or something?

    • Brittany says

      No, while the term “Aryan” was used by Hitler it was a corrupted term that he took. The Aryan “race” so to speak were the peoples that originated in India. Hitler stole many of his terms and symbols from other ethnicities and history. Another example of this is the swastika. Originally, and when turned the correct way, the swastika was a Hindu symbol which meant peace. Many Hindus no longer use this symbol because of the corrupted meaning and it’s new assossiation.

      • Togan qhan says

        Thats not true theres two kinds of indians in india one are white skinned the other is brown skinned that is because the white skinned indians are caucasians ..they settled there thousands of yrs ago the word aryan is actually not a race it was a language a group of ancient caucasian spoke people.jus like the word iran comes from the word aryan iranians are caucasians they were Persians before that.

  6. MelanesianSensation says

    I’m half Melanesian and Half Dutch.. This is the first time i see that i belong to the Negroid race. I’ve always ben told by my Melanesian family that Melanesian is a race of it’s own. But apparently i’m a negro?

    • says

      Polynesia was settled by the Ainu who the original poster doesn’t seem to have heard about. Denisovan Man is from the area of the Ainu who some think include Kennewick Man’ Modern genetic maps can be seen in the thread on the Ainu inside the forum.

      Do you doubt we could create a Minotaur today? If you doubt Da Vinci had a Philosopher’s Stone as did many others including Nostradamus – please search their names here. “SEE”-ing the past and future might be the cause of many myths but also the motive for ancient attunement genetics using tools or technology like the caduceus staffs.

  7. deridivis star says

    I don’t care what the “scientists” say. The major races have extreme differences, and these differences have led to war. Whatever created us used different hominids, creating different people. We are all still people, in the same way pit bulls and Labrador retrievers are dogs. This article suggested that there are no genetic predispositions…. Which is infuriating. Pit bulls have lockjaw, labs Dont. The races are extremely different, this garbage article suggests that differences doesn’t define race. But it does, and that’s why there is war. I can’t wait til the next human problem occurs… Genetic profiling, cause race issues have been pissing me off since highschool.

    • Kofi says

      What are you talking about? White Europeans fought each other all the time. As did any group of the same race throughout history. Religion has been a bigger detriment than race for this war starting your talking about.

      • Marilyn says

        American Indians all fought each other. Today, the Arabs are all fighting Isis (which are all Arabs). Yes, religion is part of it, but they are all Arabs. Look at the Irish fighting each other within their own country over religion. And then there was the American civil war–northerners against southeners no matter the race. . However, today in America, black men are killed more often by other black men—not by whites, Asians or Hispanics or American Indians. Give us any reason and we’ll have a fight about it!.

  8. Omar Harris says

    It is funny people think Hispanic is a race and also Puerto Rican is a race. Hispanic is a ethnicity of Spanish speaking people in the America’s which can be of any race black white asian etc. Also puerto rican is a nationality not a race just like American, Canadian nationals.

    • F.R. says

      Latin Americans are mutts and, by the tri-race/breed differentiation, would have us literally a mixture of all three races: Caucasion mainly from Spanish and other colonists, Negroid from Africans, and Mongoloid from the American natives. Total sato. So thorough, you can’t pretend it’s diluted into black or white or native (unless you try reeeally hard and eemagine). Also African Americans, which are actually considerably mixed with “whites”, however much people like to pretend otherwise.

  9. Cam says

    The races of man are obviously social political terms imposed on people with real social, biological and political consequences. It is quite funny that people assume that because there are obvious physical differences between people from various parts of the world, they are distinct “races”. This tells me that people are presupposing there is significant meaning behind these differences. No one has ever said there are no physical differences, but it has been the racists attaching biological meaning to these differences. Funny how no one talks about “big” toe differences, feet shape, ear lobe shape, type of ear wax differences between people.

    • Ben Dejho says

      Actually, there was a recent study that documented a clear difference in ear wax types between mongoloid (asian) and caucasoid (white) people. Caucasoid wax was of the “wet” type, while mongoloids had “dry” ear wax. Gross either way!

  10. Ogboji Michael says

    It is useless to discuss races where we have enough trouble to boot out. Only make sure you have a place in Heaven. If a Jew sins, he loses it; if a non-Jew does the same, he gets the same result. So where is the superiority of a race in God’s agendum?

  11. Samaria says

    So which category do Mexicans and South Americans belong to? Most of them resemble American Indians more than they do Caucasians.

    • Chris Daly says

      Mexicans and South Americans are primarily Caucasians. Most might be “Brown” in complexion, but are still considered Caucasians. Take the East Indians (India) for example, they range in complexion from Fair Skinned-to-Brown-to-Black, but are still considered Caucasians.

      • Mark Thomas says

        Sorry dough- do head mexicans are amerindians thus making them mongoloids and not caucasoid.

        • Dank says

          considering how most natives of the americas were wiped out and subsequently replaced with millions of caucasians, mexicans and latin-americans are closer to caucasoids and caucasians than to mongoloids.

          • B Prospect says

            I believe that Peruvians and Mexicans are actually the Latin-Americans proportionately higher In mongoloids . If we look at the other South America countries, they are mostly Caucasoid.

  12. troy wallis says

    If you don’t believe in race then look in the mirror. Every thing about the major division of races is totally different.the say we talk look act think smell. Everything is totally different. .but being different is what existence and life are about. No one is better then anyone else.just different. Equal but but different..go to San Francisco to Oakland to San jose visit China town, Oakland silicon valley and tell me that were not different races. Right here in one state. Not just biology. Spiritual races.God bless you

    • Raegus says

      I think you’re missing the point. The way you act is defined by culture. Or are you saying a black person in Holland will always act the same way as a black person in Nigeria?

      The way you talk as well. Do black British people have American accents? Because they sound just like black people in America? What you’re doing is what society has done for centuries, you’re looking at cultures and saying “that’s race”. You think culture is race.

  13. Albert W. Hanne II says

    To quote Meyer’s Konversationslexicon as a scientific source strips the entire article of credibility. Meyer’s was simply a dictionary, just like Webster’s in English. Its editors were linguists, not anthropologists or geneticists. Their conclusions were antiquated when compared to the scientific classifications of those times, which were more along the lines of Rev. G. Wood’s 1870 tome “The Uncivilized Races of Men in all Countries of the World”.
    Wood did not categorize human races by skin color, rather by their origin. The division of mankind by color was a creation of the English-speaking countries, because it allowed them to keep certain colors in slavery.
    In the early part of the 20th century European anthropology leaned on the animal model, where a certain species (dog, horse, cat or bird) could be subdivided into many races, in which color played only a minor part or none at all. The accepted cataloging consisted of 72 races, but then the Nazis came along in Germany and screwed all of that up by by assessing values to each race, with the Scandinavians (the Nordics, one of the four Arian races at the top, and the Bushmen, the Hamites (Arabs) and the Semites (Jews) at the bottom.. They ranked some black skin races very high, such as the Massai and those of the former German Colonies (except the Hottentots). The only race the Nazis really hated (only for for what they were) were the Jews. They hated two other races, (the Romas and Sinti), but only because of their customs and their behavior, not because of what they were.

    Throughout history, the separation of mankind by skin colors has been an exercise in idiocity, done primarily for the purpose of control….

    • dingiribanda78 says

      That’ is what the Mahavamsa, the fantasy story of the Sinhalese says but that is not true. The Sinhalese are negoroid and vast majority of them are black in color and they look like the close cousins of Africans.

      • Tharaka says

        Color is not the only fact dividing races. Caucasian, Mongolian and Negroid races depend on the skull shapes also. Although Sri Lankans have dark skin color because of near to the equivalent. So, Still Sri Lankas are Caucasian.

  14. Lisa says

    There are still 3 definite racial groups in terms of physical charecteristics manifest in the human phenotype. The three groups don’t look alike. They make up the human race or family. To acknowledge this is not racist. The groups are equal and all equally human. But to deny that the we look different is so stupid it would be laughable if it weren’t just another pathetic attempt to be politically correct.

    • Tim WATHEN says

      So…..anyone can join the “Jewish Race”
      By going to classes and converting
      Not as easy to if u decide to say” I want to be Caucasian or negroid…..not a race but another religious group. Falls under ethnic. Sammy Davis Jr part of that race by birth or….???

    • Bora says

      So who create the other races ? Are we fabric ? Don’t talk nonsense. Allah created everything, all races, the earth and all universe. Allah won’t judge you for your race, Allah will judge you for your actions.

    • Charles McClure says

      What? Where do you see the word “Jew?” Abraham is the father of many nations, including Israel, Edom, and Arabs. Israel is not Jew. Big subject usually overlooked by both scholars and theologians.

    • Anti-Racist says

      Jews are the best racists. They have tons of paperback propaganda to prove my statement. “God’s chosen people.” would be a racist term by definition. Thanks for showing the world even more evidence of my statement. I don’t even need to create a straw-man argument toward you guys, you clearly point out how racist you are every time you type your “chosen race” mythology.

    • guest says

      The “Jewish” or Hebrews did not exist until the covenant with Abraham. Waaaaaaaaay after the existence of man. Please quote the Bible correctly.

    • Togan qhan says

      First of all theres no such thing as a jewish race .jewish is a religion not a race not a nationality. The jewish religion started from the tribe of judah when the hebrew people started to stray from the true religion of god .theres nothin in the old testament where u can find god describing a jewish race or religion .hebrews were semites jus like arabs they came from shem noah s son .most jews that are alive today are converts that dont have any hebrew blood and are not connected to the ancient israelites thats a fact dna was taken from so called jews in all dif

      • Togan qhan says

        All different countrys and there dna is closer to the people they live amongst then any jew from anywhere in the world. The ashkenazi jew are turkic people called khazars who converted to judasim in the 9 th century .

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