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Sables on Display at
2006 ADGA National Show

To Be Shown in 2007

Staff Report

Members of the International Sable Breeders Association brought approximately 20 Sable dairy goats to the 2006 ADGA National Show in Indianapolis, Indiana in July for an educational display about the breed. Enough Sables have now been registered with the American Dairy Goat Association to allow official breed classes to be part of the National Competition in 2007 when the show is held in Wyoming.

The Sable association provided the following information in a brochure at the show for interested on-lookers.

Sable dairy goats are Saanens that are not white. They come in many colors and combinations and have been a part of the Saanen heritage for as long as there have been Saanens. The first Sables arrived in the United States on the same ship with the first Saanens and have been here ever since.

Sables are not the result of an accidental breeding or the "Alpine buck that got over the fence," but are the result of the pairing of two recessive genes, one from the sire and one from the dam. If an animal has only one of these genes, the animal is white, but if the animal has two, one from each parent, then a colored coat is the result.

This is not a common occurrence, so Sable births to white Saanens are fairly rare. The condition seems to appear about five percent of the time among Saanens in the United States. Sables bred to Sables with a color pattern, however, consistently produce color.

Some commonly asked questions and answers about Sables follow:

Q. How can a breed be based on a defect?

A. Every new breed of dairy goat is based on a defect from the "norm." For example, look at the Nubian breed, which was established in England during the late 1800s and imported to the U. S. soon after the turn of the century. At that time, every recognized breed in the United States required erect ears. Pendulous ears and Roman noses were serious, disqualifying defects-yet these are the very traits on which the Nubian breed is based. The next new breed to appear in the United States was the LaMancha. Every recognized breed at that time required upright ears or in the case of Nubians, pendulous ears. No ears at all was definitely a disqualifying defect! Yet this is the basis for the LaMancha breed. Another new breed waiting in the wings for National Show participation is the Nigerian Dwarf. The small size of these animals is a disqualification by the standards for all other ADGA-recognized breeds-yet there is no denying that Nigerians are a viable dairy breed. If an animal doesn’t have something that is characterized as a "defect" because it doesn’t fit into an existing breed standard, this isn’t different. And if it isn’t different, how can it be a new breed? The trick is to find "defects" which are attractive, useful, and which will breed true-remember, one man’s defect is another man’s treasure.

Q. Why bother with Sables-why not just cull them?

A. These animals often embody superior genetics from top Saanen bloodlines and it is a foolish waste to discard these animals for something so superficial as the color of their hair. This is especially important now, when the number of purebred Saanens in the United States is experiencing a decline, a fact that worries many Saanen breeders. Many breeders prefer Sables to Saanens because they enjoy the variety of colors and are bored with the monotonous white of the Saanens. With Sables, there is the best of both worlds: production, strength, and temperament together with a gorgeous variety of coat colors and patterns. Still another reason for keeping Sables is purely due to their color. The white Saanens, with their light skin, do not do well in southern climates. Their light skin color makes them unusually prone to skin cancers,and most, if not all, of their offspring will be white as well. But, all of those offspring with one Sable parent will be carriers of the recessive color gene. Thus, if breeding between Saanens and Sables is carried out to any extent, then the recessive color gene is going to be spread far and wide into the white Saanen population, something that Saanen breeders do not want. So, while everybody recognizes that Sables are indeed a variety of Saanens, it is important that they be registered in a herdbook of their own so that their breeding populations will be kept separate.

Q. Are all Sables sundgau (black with white trim)?

A. No. Sables come in a variety of colors and combinations, except solid white. There are sundgaus, and there are those who have tried to breed sundgaus exclusively, but this is because they liked that color pattern, not because it is what Sables are supposed to be. Actually, the first Sables to arrive in the United States came on the ship with the very first Saanens imported to this country. The famous of these original does, was the celebrated Panama Louise, and she was grey. Her sister, Panama Zahre, arrived on the same ship, and she was tan.

Q. Is the number of Sables being born to purebred Saanens decreasing because of breeders efforts to cull them out?

A. Saanen breeders have never done anything to reduce the number of Sables being born. They have never tried to identify which individuals or bloodlines contain the color gene nor have they ever done anything to weed out the color gene. All they have ever done is try to "hide the evidence" by disposing of colored kids or selling them without papers at the local auction barn. The number of Sables being born to purebred Saanens is decreasing though, but the reason has nothing whatever to do with Sables. The number of Sables born to purebred Saanens is falling simply because the number of purebred Saanens is falling markedly in registry numbers, a fact which has many Saanen breeders very worried and is all the more reason that the genetics embodied in the Sables should not be lost.

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