The Sable dairy goat is a colored Saanen, the color being a recessive genetic trait. The Sable has the same rugged conformation, the same milk production, and the same temperament as the Saanen but does not sunburn as do many white Saanens. The Sables breed true and occasionally, but seldom, produce a white kid.
One of the more notable Sable does of all time was GCH Klisse’s GSMS Triumph of Hope. This doe, bred and owned by Klisse Foster, Indiana, was a four-time ADGA National Champion in Recorded Grade competition with wins from 2000-2003. She also won over 50 Best in Show wins, gaining attention and support for the dairy goat industry to recognize the Sable as a viable breed, separate from Saanens.
At the beginning of the 1900s, the earliest importations of Saanens included colored Saanens because of the belief that pure white lines of Saanens would result in albinism. The well-known Saanen foundation sire Great Caesar was a brown chamoise. Victor 224, another well-known Saanen foundation sire, was white with colored descendants—his sire was Great Caesar, and his dam was Belle, a registered white Saanen with Saanen dam. Andreas Hofer, another Saanen foundation sire, although white, was known for producing color. In the late 1970s the Arizona herd, owned by Don and Suzy West, produced many quality Sables. Arizona’s Cricket, Diamond Drifter, and Johnny Cash were some of the better-known Sables of that era. A Sable has been the ADGA National Champion Recorded Grade almost every year since 1999. At the turn of the century, an unusually fine doe, GCH Klisse’s GSMS Triumph of Hope with four national championships and over 50 Best in Show wins garnered the needed attention and support for recognizing the Sable as a viable breed.
It is currently believed that only about five percent of the Saanens produce color, but no statistics have been determined. Two major factors are involved. First, in the 1950s, enough Saanen breeders limited the Saanen standard of the American Dairy Goat Association to white or light cream in order to eliminate all color. Colored Saanens were removed from the Saanen registry and listed as Experimental’s with only 50% Saanen blood. This effectively castrated the Sables because bucklings listed as 50% of a breed cannot be registered. The second factor is that many Saanen breeders did not want it known that their white Saanens produced color—considering it a major defect—so many breeders destroyed the colored kids at birth, or at best, sold them.
In 1978 some Saanen breeders started a movement to recognize Sables as a breed, with much opposition. Paradoxically a breed standard was passed by the American Dairy Goat Association in 1981, but ADGA did not recognize the breed itself. Because of the strong opposition within ADGA and the breeding restrictions, the Sable population grew slowly. Finally, the Sable as a separate breed was recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association in 2003 and has been accepted for registry beginning in 2005; records are gradually being established for this new breed.
The Sable breed continues to grow slowly. Although not enough Sables have been shown at the annual ADGA National Show to warrant inclusion as a regular breed competition as of 2008, the quality of the Sables is being preserved by production of Sables whose qualities are equal with any breed, whether in the show ring (conformation), for milk production, and for gentle temperament—but with color.