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Genetics of a Sable...

Dark Pigment

1.      “E”= Whether to make it or not  (extension)


        Black= (A) E                 Buff= ee


2.     “A”= (agouti)     Where do we put it?  (PATTERN)


    Black = (E) A                Sable = (E) ay                 Blk/tan = (E) at at


Aw refers to wolf sable not seen in cockers but in Huskies, Malamutes etc. In most breeds, fawn refers to ay yellows. Cocker reds may be either ayay (clear sable red) or ee. If the whiskers are black, the dog is ayay. If straw or cream colored, the dog is ee. Basenjis are clear red sable—ayay.

3.     “B” =    What color do we make it? (black/brown)


                       Black=(AE)B               Brown= (AE)bb


4.         “D”  = and do we dilute it?   (the dark pigment)


Blue = (AE)B dd                  Brown=  (AE)bbdd

Merle is a patchy dilution gene.



5.         “C” =  Should we dilute the light pigment? (Color to no color-albino series)


                                            Red= C              Cream=C ch           Silver= C e        Almost Albino= Ce Ce     

 6.        “S” = How much of the body should we cover? (solid/ not solid, both light and dark pigment)


                     Black= (AE)S         Parti little white (AE)si si     p=parti  (AE)sp sp              (AE) sw sw

                   Small s = spotting, i= irish spotting, p = piebald, w = extreme white piebald or without color.

 7.      “R”        and “T” = Roaning and Ticking    “G”= Graying


Roan is dark hairs growing in a white coat. A second type of roan is white hairs growing in a dark coat like a roan horse. Graying is the replacement of colored by uncolored hairs as a dog gets older. A dark puppy washes out with age due to interspersed white hairs. Fading may start immediately after birth or after weeks or months and may cease graying by the first adult coat or may continue throughout the dog’s lifetime.

Where is controversy concerning the second type of roan and whether a roan is merely heavy ticking. But roan is a simple dominant gene. You can’t get it if you do not see it. A roan puppy must have a roan parent. This means roan is a separate gene from ticking as ticking is not dominant.


Sable Explanations and Answers to Often Asked Questions

Are there sable and tan dogs?

Ay is incompletely dominant to At, which may explain why some sable dogs LOOK like they have tan points, or a tan mask. Some call these ‘tan points’ because it looks like it phenotypically.  An Ay At (sable/tan points) dog is usually darker, having more black hairs overall than ayay (sable/sable) dog.

What will be the genetic impact on the breed as a whole if the sable becomes as popular as the browns?
As Terri Paschal points out about the 2003 stud issue of the leader, there are:

Blacks  99 dogs…….19 having brown in their pedigree
ASCOBS  131 dogs……39 having brown
Partis   142 dogs……27 having brown----------------Total=85 dogs with brown, or 22.8%

Many of the browns have sable behind them. So, to answer the question, the impact on the breed could go as high as 25% but how high is it already?  So far the impact has been that some top producing and winning dogs go back to sable.

How many generations does the gene stay active and does it ever go away? What do you do if you do not want the gene in your lines?
The gene will never go away. As Francis Greer said, “Genes don’t go away, they hide.” If you do not want a sable to ever pop up in your line, breed tan points to tan points. There are no sable genes in a tan pointed dog.

What about all the variations of sable?
There are no variations of sable. There is only the amount of sabling, like the amount of ticking, or the amount of roaning, or the amount of black on a parti-color, or the amount of tan on a black and tan.

A serious breeder is not a ‘color’ breeder. What happens when breeders choose color first?
Bologna! Everyone is a color breeder. Some kennels only breed ASCOBS, some only Reds, some only Silver buffs. Some only breed Blacks and Blk/tans. Some only breed parti-colors.Some kennels only breed brown. Even if you are one of the few kennels that breed all varieties of cockers, you would be one of the fewer still if you crossed color varieties. Because if we do not think about the color we are breeding, we may end up with mismarks, and we then are truly adding to the pet population.

Browns are common in the Sporting dog world, but how will Sable be looked upon by group and other sporting judges. It is not a Sporting Dog color.
Yes, it is. But most people have not seen it as such. There are sable English cockers and sable Springer spaniels, and they used to be all the same breed, remember?  Below are links to look at these colors of spaniels. Some argue that the color is not a good field color because you cannot see it. But that argument holds true for the brown cocker, the Field Spaniel, The Wirehair Pointer, and the Labs.

What would the breed gain, or lose, by adding another color?
A color gained (or regained). Nothing lost. Did we lose by adding brown to the show-ring? Did we lose by adding black and tan? Did a color change your breeding program?

Do we have to be open to all colors? What about merles? Where do we draw the line?
Lines drawn in the sand are usually arbitrary. What we are saying is, “Don’t mess with my territory/color/breed.” But you may continue breeding and showing your color, your variety, your breed. No one will make you cross the line and bring the other color in. If we accept a color, are we saying as a breed that we are encouraging the breeding of colors as opposed to other determining factors? (i.e. health and conformation) Of couse not. We all should be breeding for the BEST QUALITY. A good dog does not rely on its color for its quality.

I am not debating the validity of Merles in this site. The link for merles is: merlecockers.com

What about the pet population and over population? Won’t we be adding another color affect the numbers of pets bred?
Actually, just the reverse would be true. The reason pet breeders want to breed the color is that it is considered a RARE color. If we allow the color to be standard, we will be taking the glory out of breeding the color.

What have sable breeders done to establish themselves as serious breeders? Do they agree as to the genetics or modes of inheritance? Sable breeders have not developed a leadership that can speak for the color, nor do they seem to offer to help pay for the mailings etc. that ASC has to do for the color?
It is difficult to defend oneself as a serious breeder of sables when the color is not acceptable by the standard as a valid color. If dog shows validate that one is a serious breeder, then how are sable breeders to be thought of as serious? An inference must be made that a breeder who shows good dogs might also have good sables at home, but in the end, who cares because they can’t be shown.

The leadership question is bothersome. Did each color of cocker have a ‘leadership’? There are excellent sable web sites available with correct explanations of sables and their genetics for anyone to view.

I would gladly pitch in money for mailings and I am sure others would too, but there could be a political backlash for that instead of having the vote carried by the club as all other matters would be.

Since ASC is actively supporting research into genetic health issues, is it in the best interest of the breed to introduce another set of genes, and will that introduction proliferate as quickly as the brown genes did and add to the confusion of genetic profiles? Will old problems surface tied to the sable gene after so many strides have been made in other colors?
There is no such thing as ‘old problems’ within the breed or within a particular color. We still have all of the; cataracts, hip dysplasia, thyroid, epilepsy, etc. These are a BREED issue, not a COLOR issue. Also, to ask a question such as this is to assume that sables are not out there being bred and have already become part of all varieties of Cocker. Furthermore, sable is not a ‘new’ color, just as roan is not new. These are old colors that have been revived.

I truly believe that the way to make progress on health issues is to listen to what other breeds and countries have done to wipe out a defect. Have dogs Penn-hipped instead of using OFA. Not only can it be done earlier (4 months) but dogs can be bred according to the defects shown in each dog thereby never doubling up on a defect. Shiloh Sheperds completely wiped out hip-dysplasia in the breed this way. Have the stud dog be permanently cleared before use, etc.

Link to sable-cocker.com to see names of sable cockers from AKC stud books back to 1924.


Other Sable Definitions and Facts

Following is an older standard for English Springer Spaniels showing some similarities between Springers and Cockers. Remember too that the Fawn color has black and sable was often  called fawn.  From “THE BOOK OF THE ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL” by Anna Katherine Nicholas pp 12-13; “Somewhere preceding the turn of the century [17th century], England’s Sporting Spaniel Society drew up the following standard for them.

Colour; liver and white or black and white (with or without tan), fawn and white, yellow and white, also roans and self  colours of all these tints. The pied colours are preferable.”

SABLE (red, gold, cream, or gray). This is the commonest Lhasa coat color. It is composed of a mixture of light and dark hair in varying proportions. The color of the dark hair is usually black but can be liver.

The parti-color gene can change any of the 4 basic coat colors (sable, clear tan (buff), black, black/tan, by adding white.

The A series controls the PATTERNING of the dark coat pigment.

Text Box: MAHOGANY RED?  A black/tan with good tan markings will throw a high proportion of good reds when bred to a sable.





BOOK OF POMS…….Official Standard, Oct. 14, 1980

            12 colors: Black, brown, Chocolate, Beaver, Red, Orange, Cream, Orange-sable, Wolf-sable, Blue, white, and Parti-color.

Sable colored dogs must be shaded throughout as uniformly as possible with no self-colored patches. Shaded muzzle on sables permitted. Black mask is a minor fault.

MARCH 1971 revised to state--

Any solid color, any solid color with lighter or darker shadings of the same color, any solid color with sable or black shadings, parti-color, sable, and back and tan.

SHADED SABLES;  (definition in Pom standard)

Shaded sables are dogs whose coats are shaded throughout with three or more colors. This shading must be as uniform as possible with no patches of self color. Sables generally have the best texture and length of all coat colors.

1924- THE COLLIE IN AMERICA   Showed that black & tan is recessive to sable.

1935- A study by Al Mitchell on Collie color concluded that a pair of clear yellow sables cannot produce black & tan puppies.  [clear sable is AyAy. B/tan is At]

1966-  DOG BREEDING REPRODUCTION AND GENETICS       by .A. Asdell, M.A.,PHD, talked about sable. Agouti. Ticking, and roan as being a PATTERN .

The series of genes being responsible for a color pattern is As, ay, at, aw.

As  produces dark pigment.

ay  restricts the amount of it.

at produces tan points in certain areas or patterns.

aw causes hairs to be banded with color (wolf-sable)

1979-THE GENETICS FOR DOG BREEDERS  by Roy Robinson shows that the A, a and their mutant allele superscripts, s, y, t, sa, are dominant for the PATTERN of black pigment..

Oakridge Cockers has a very thorough site on color genetics: http://www.cockerspanielinformation.com/colors/interactive/a_locus.htm

Coat Color genetics in Lhasa Apsos;    http://www.lhasa-apso.org/health/coatcolr.htm