Physical characteristics of Basque people include flat noses with bumps, pale skin with dark hair, heights that are either very tall or very short, and very high concentrations of the very rare O negative blood type.
Stereotypical character traits of Basque people include toughness, perseverance, loud talking, tendencies toward drinking, partying, and fine eating, and a reverence for independence and liberty.
Note that these are all stereotypes and not representative of any one individual.
5 Physical Characteristics of Basque People
1. Extreme Heights
The average height of Basque people tends to be an inch or two more than the people they live around, namely the Spanish and the French.
This average height of around 5 foot 10 or 11 for Basque men does not offer the full story, however.
Basque people, especially the men, are famous for often being noticeably very tall or noticeably very short, with the average height being the point in the middle but not necessarily representing the bulk of the population directly.
These height differences seem to be connected to different regions within Basque Country, with people from the mountainous regions being shorter than people from the coastal ones.
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2. Flat and Bumpy Noses
The most identifiable nose seen on Basque people is one which is relatively flat, has a tip that extends to below the point where it extrudes from the face, and has a bump in the middle.
This nose is most often described as a variant of the Roman nose. The principal difference between the Basque nose and the Roman nose is that the Basque nose’s tip dips downward rather than pointing straight out, creating the flatter appearance.
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3. Pale Skin
One of the most noticeable differences between Basque people and their Spanish and South French neighbors is that ethnic Basques have relatively pale skin compared to those populations and other nations of the European Mediterranean region.
Furthermore, not only do Basque people have lighter skin on average, but they also have a higher proportion of people with pink toned skin rather than olive toned. This means that you will see more Basque people with rosy cheeks, for example, than you may see Spaniards.
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6. Dark Hair
In spite of this much lighter complexion when it comes to skin colors, when it comes to hair colors, Basque people still have the same expressions of dark hair that would be expected of the region.
Blond hair is extremely uncommon among Basque people, with the most common hair colors being black and dark brown.
Although not overly remarkable on its own, this very frequent combination of dark hair and light skin is a noticeable feature when looking at a crowd of Basques.
7. O-Negative Blood Types
Although someone’s blood type is not something you can see without a blood test, this is perhaps the most striking physical characteristic of Basque people.
By some samples, it has been extrapolated that the majority of Basque people have type O blood. On its own, this is unremarkable since there are many nations where the blood type is dominant.
Where it gets interesting is that Basque people also have what many studies indicate is the highest incidence of Rhesus negative blood in the entire world.
Rhesus negative blood is significantly less common than Rhesus positive blood, and it is this combination that gives Basque people some of, if not the, highest incidences of O negative blood types of any nation in the world, an otherwise very rare type.
5 Stereotypical Character Traits of Basque People
1. Toughness and Perseverance
The Basque language is a complete isolate when looking at language families, and Basque culture is quite unique.
These are both due to the very ancient heritage of the nation, and it is this ancient heritage that gives Basque people the image of being incredibly tough and persevering.
Where other nations rise and fall throughout centuries and millennia, the Basques have always remained, and the stereotype is that they have the individual toughness to persevere through as many changes in governments and empires as may come.
2. Independence and Liberty
Although the stereotype of Basque people feeling very strongly about their independence and liberty is at least partially linked to the activities of the rebel ETA group, there is some extent to which these are true.
Without the violent and criminal connotations of the ETA, there are Basque people who would prefer to have a country independent of Spain and France.
3. Lots of Food and Fine Eating
There is a stereotype that Basque people eat comically excessive amounts of food with each meal. Although the exact amount of food is exaggerated, meals of multiple courses are the norm in Basque Country.
Basque people also have the same appreciation for culinary traditions as their neighbors do. As you may find in France and Spain, Basque restaurants and cooks at home will prepare high quality meals with great variety and nutritional value.
4. Loud Voices
Similar to people from Spain and many Latin American countries, there is a stereotype of Basque people that they speak very loudly and in a very animated manner.
Although this is not necessarily true in day to day life, this stereotype might have its origins in old Basque shepherding traditions, known as irrintzi, which have become a part of overall Basque culture. This unique practice can leave quite an impression on tourists, which will only have helped the spread of the loud voices stereotype.
5. Partying and Drinking
Basque Country is a place with countless carnivals, festivals, celebrations, and all sorts of other joyful gatherings, so it is not surprising that Basque people have gained a reputation as people who love to party and will look for any excuse to do so.
With parties comes heavy drinking. However, it is not clear how much of the drinking stereotype is a direct result of the partying one and how much is its own thing, the image nonetheless exists of the partying Basque with a drink in their hand.
The Basques are one of the most unique nations of Europe, and today we have learned about some of the physical and character traits, true or otherwise, that make them so special.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]