How does a Neandertal compare with an anatomically modern human? This diagram below is a simplification of the real answer:

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The average Neandertal male stood 64 inches tall, weighed 143 pounds and had a brain volume of 1600 milliliters. The average female stood 62 inches tall, weighed 110 pounds and had a brain volume of 1300 milliliters. Both sexes had to be larger and stockier proportionally because the climate of Late Pleistocene Europe was very similar to that of both Canada and Alaska. We have found no concrete evidence of Neandertals sporting both facial and androgenic (body) hair, but the possibility is a no-braining high.

But if the Neandertals were smaller and heavier--enough to be analogous to the dwarf of modern fantasy--would they still need facial and body hairs?

In this alternate Earth, both Neandertal sexes had the same brain volume (averaging up to 1600 milliliters), but the average male stood 48 inches tall and weighed 200 pounds, whereas the average female stood 43 inches tall and weighed 168 pounds. In short, smaller in height but higher in weight than our Neandertals. With 200 pounds of bone, muscle and fat compressed into a smaller body, this one question stands--would the smaller, "dwarved-down" Neandertal still need facial and body hairs, or would the extra mass be enough to keep them warm in the frigid climate of Ice Age Europe?

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    $\begingroup$ Land mammals that live in cold areas all are furry, so I think any human species that develops in frigid areas will have body hair. $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2020 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ Humans do not need body hair. In fact, body hair is one of the most variable aspects of humans across geographical populations. Europeans have lots, east Asians not so much and some sub-Saharan African populations very little. And in all geographical populations there are cultural sub-populations which shave/epilate facial and body hair with no ill effect. (Remember those ancient statues of Greek and Roman statesmen and so on? The Greeks have bushy beards, while most of the Romans are clean shaven.) (And no human geographical population has enough body hair to really help with staying warm.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 13, 2020 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Any animal with clothes and fire can do away with body hair. Is your point just that or were you pointing towards a different method of keeping warm? $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2020 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @LioElbammalf: My point was that humans (both anatomically modern humans and Neanderthalians) never had even remotely enough body hair to be of any use for the purpose of keeping warm. We just don't. We are apes adapted for life in the hot African savannah, we need no stinking body hair. The entire premise of the question is flawed. There has never been a human population with enough body hair to substitute for clothes and fire. We didn't expand our range to include frigid Europe until we learned how to keep warm using our brains and hands. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 13, 2020 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP actually human body hair has been shown to be a surprisingly good insulator compared to humans who shave it off, still nowhere near as good as fur but still significant. And it drastically improves the insulating quality of clothing. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 14, 2020 at 19:36

3 Answers 3


Hair is not only for protection against cold, especially for such "naked" creatures like humans.

It is also

  1. Signal. Sexual mostly. Telling females from males is a must for creatures with less than 100 offspring per female. But it is also used to tell the young from adults and adults from elders. This allows to prevent many one-sided conflicts, and keeps aggression at some control (until some stupid apes invented weapons "to make everybody equal"). And so on.
  2. It is a physical protection against stones, thorns, claws, fangs, and insects (it's also home for other insects - but this is different story)
  3. They help to spread scent. Again for different signaling process. There is nothing better than the smell of your home borrow where dozen of human creatures leave with limited access to water!

It all means that neanderthals needed hairs even more:

  • they are smaller, so at the same distance less features are visible - they need bigger headdress
  • They were unable to throw things (compared with us), but were very strong (compared to us). So all encounters they had with prey and predators were close ones. And they really needed additional skin protection
  • Human "fur-scheme" is due to the evolutionary process of neoteny (we look like newborns to gorillas). So if neanderthals are less evolutionarily developed they must be closer to other primates

It all means that most probably they were and should be much more hairy than humans

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    $\begingroup$ Neanderthals were fully human humans. They were not "less evoluionally developed". They were just a little bit different humans. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 13, 2020 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ AlexP - While I agree that they were no less sophisticated in tool use and technology at the time than humans. Calling them "fully human" is something I'm not 100% sure on. They were able to interbreed and that implies that they are part of our own species, or at the very least, same family taxonomically speaking. But their bone structure and musculature is different in some very significant ways. Far more than any racial differences today. Now, is that enough to declare them a separate species? Maybe, maybe not, but that is not to say they were lesser than humans, just different. $\endgroup$
    – Redbud201
    Jul 17, 2020 at 5:03

Apes do not have hairs for cold climates, apes have hairs to avoid freaking skin burns....my brother cut his hair bald and now his skin is falling in flakes mixed with blood because he got burned by the sun.

Modern humans are less hairy than other species of apes because we do not stand in the sun all day long. Most of the time, some people who enjoy skin cancer do get a sun tan on purpose at the beach.

Humans have just as many hair follicles as gorillas or other chimps, but our hairs are thinnier, too thin to be visible.

Also Neanderthals were not shorter, just like every generation of humans gets taller...not because of evolution but because of better nutrition. Neanderthals were just malnourished, just as ancient homo sapiens were too.

But to answer your question, no facial hair is not needed. China lived in the cold for millenia yet Chinese people with a full beard or even partial beard are incredibly rare.

  • $\begingroup$ yet humans that live in places were bun burns are less of a risk are hairier. modern humans have less hair becasue we cool ourselves by sweating, which other apes do not do. . $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 15, 2020 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, hunter-harvester where just as tall as us. It is the lack of variety of farmed food that made "ancient" people shorter. $\endgroup$
    – Madlozoz
    Jul 16, 2020 at 16:36

The temperature receptors are located in the skin, if I recall correctly, therefore larger fat reserves would protect internal organs from extreme cold (they would theoretically survive a bit longer), but it would still inflict pain and frostbites. Therefore I believe the hair is still necessary, regardless of body mass.

  • $\begingroup$ Yet whales and seals survive in arctic conditions without hair. They use fat to keep warm. Presumably there's no pain or frostbite. $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2020 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ No human geographical population has so much body hair to help with staying warm. The sad truth is that for such a purpose humans are essentially naked. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 13, 2020 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ Presumably, the whales and seals have thicker skin and less sensitive thermal receptors than hominidae. $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2020 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @chasly-reinstateMonica Seals have fur . Did you mean dolphins? $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Jul 13, 2020 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @notovny - Thanks. No I was confusing them with sea-lions. I've since discovered that sea-lions have fur as well (although not so much) so I got it wrong twice! $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2020 at 19:27

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