Why Men Have Bigger Noses Than Women

By Breanna Draxler | November 20, 2013 11:35 am

nose-compareMen’s noses are, on average, 10 percent bigger than women’s (at least for populations of European descent). This can be pretty easily observed. The fascinating part is why.

Researchers now say schnoz size relates to a person’s physique, and the energy required to maintain it. As explained on Phys.org,

Males in general have more lean muscle mass, which requires more oxygen for muscle tissue growth and maintenance. Larger noses mean more oxygen can be breathed in and transported in the blood to supply the muscle.

Obviously this is a generalization—the body types and noses of men and women show plenty of variation between individuals. But the hypothesis consistently rang true in a recent study that tracked the nose size and growth of 38 Iowans, from the age of 3 to about 25.

During childhood, the boys and girls had comparably sized sniffers, as evaluated by X-rays and physical examinations. Nasal growth kicks in around age 11, with the onset of puberty. At this point, the boys’ metabolisms sped up, their energy consumption rose, and both their nasal cavities and their nose itself grew faster than the girls’.

This idea of correlating nose size with muscle oxygenation could also explain why modern humans have smaller noses than, say, Neanderthals. Early hominids had more muscle mass and therefore needed bigger noses to bring in more oxygen, according to the study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. This is further supported by the fact that our predecessors’ lungs and rib cages were also larger than today’s average European.

Keep that in mind before bemoaning a big nose in the mirror.

Image credit: auremar/Shutterstock


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: gender, nose, oxygen
  • craig

    I read that neanderthals needed approximately 5000 calories a day whereas humans at the time needed about 2000. Survival advantage: humans.

  • Denise Codner

    Listen, with my muscle mass my nose would be huge. But it’s tiny. LOL but then again I was not pumping major iron at age 11. But I was beating up the boys. But despite my weight lifting I have a lot of body fat. So my metabolism has to be slow as hell. But I know people with fast metobolisms since child hood and are mesomorphic and hold muscle and they have small noses. I don’t know if I totally agree with this study.

  • http://symmed.ru/ rada

    Some time ago, the length of the nose men compared with other things

  • Bobareeno

    Ridiculous. This study uses too small of a sample and only one ethnic group. Let’s measure hand sizes, or liver sizes and derive some sort of imaginary relevance to intelligence or emotional stability. Any two variables can be measured and relationships between them can be hypothesized; cause and effect are not necessarily proven.

  • David Boldt

    If nose size were of significant importance to oxygenation requirements then the largest noses should belong to the cultures inhabiting the highest elevations. Further, if nose size is enhanced by oxygen needs beginning at puberty, then people undergoing adolescence at higher elevations should also have larger noses.

  • Sks_55557

    That doesn’t make sense. Some ethnicities have larger noses than others, but without correlating larger muscles. Similarly, some women have larger noses than some men, again without having greater muscle mass. Speculating, — it’s more likely that greater nose size provides a more formidable visage for men; conversely, women and children have many characteristics in common that are inviting and non-threatening: rounder faces, smaller noses, higher-pitched voices, smaller bodies, etc.

  • JoeMosely

    I thought it was because men’s fingers were 10% bigger.

  • umlau

    This article has it wrong. The hypothesis is that large noses were an adaptation to the cold. Since noses humidify the air as it enters the body.

    Also, biology does contribute towards the sexual dimorphism of noses. HOWEVER, this is more likely attributed to sexual selection. Since smaller noses tend to be more attractive on women, we see that this trait is selected. But, it could also be that large noses are more attractive on men, so this could be selected too.


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