How Many Races Are There in the World?

By Staff WriterLast Updated May 27, 2020 7:37:09 PM ET
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Helge V. Keitel/ flickr

Human race and a person’s ethnicity are often confused with one another. However, there is a big difference between these two. Race deals with the physical characteristics of a person or group of people. These include their bone structure, skin, eye color, and hair. Ethnicity is used in reference to cultural factors. These factors include nationality, regional culture, ancestry, and language. It is by all standards a subcategory of a specific race.

The Meyers Konversations-Lexikon was a German encyclopedia that was used from 1839 until 1984. According to its contents, three major human races around the world were recognized. These included Caucasian, Mongolian, and Negroid. Today, four major divisions of the human race are acknowledged. These include Caucasian/White, Mongoloid/Asian, Negroid/Black and Australoid. The United States Census Bureau goes as far as to include six races that it recognizes as living within the U.S. and its territories. These being White, Black/African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander. Let’s explore the four major races recognized worldwide.


Caucasian races include Aryans, Hamites, and Semites. Their distinctive physical characteristics include a long head with a high forehead. They have little supraorbital development. Their face is mainly narrow. The nose is long and narrow. Both the root and bridge sit at a high level. Their skin is classified as being white or lightly pigmented. The origins of the Caucasian race come from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.


Negroid races include African, Hottentots, Melanesians/Papua, Negrito, Australian Aborigine, Dravidians, and the Sinhalese. Their physical characteristics include having a dolichocephalic skull with a small number being Brachycephalic. They have a high forehead that has little supraorbital development. The jaw is pointed forward. The nose sits low and has a broad root and bridge. Identifiable depressions can often be seen at the root of the nose. The origins of the Negroid race come from different groups residing throughout Africa.


Mongolian races include northern Mongolian, Chinese, Indo-Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Malayan, Polynesian, Maori, Micronesian, Eskimo, and American Indian or Native American. Their physical characteristics include having a short round head that has a high crown. Their foreheads are slightly lower than that of a Caucasian. They have no supraorbital development. Their face is wide and short with a projecting cheekbone structure. Those from Asian groups often have shovel-shaped incisors. Mongolian races have low and broad noses at the root and bridge. Mongolian races originate from areas including Korea, India, Japan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Alaska, and Pakistan. 


Australoid races originate from different parts of Asia and Oceania. Their physical characteristics include a long head. Their hair is often black and curly with a silky texture. They possess prominent brow ridges and moderate to large supraorbital ridges. They do possess a large prominent jaw structure. Many Australoid races can be found in the Mediterranean region of Melanochroi, Myanmar, Cambodia, Japan, Australia, Melanesia, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.