About Sable Cockers
Updated August 8, 2016

Introduction to the Sable American Cocker Spaniel:

Sable cockers have always been a part of the cocker spaniel breed. 
In the beginning, there wasn't much ado about the color pattern. Most didn't breed for it, but it did pop up now and again

Sable can be found in the Springer Spaniels and English Cockers as well; which is where our American Cockers derived from.
It has also been one of the hottest "color" topics and color wars in the history of the cocker spaniel.
The sable pattern has been traced back into the early 1900's, where many were registered as mahogany, and some were registered as sable.
In the early AKC stud books, the breeder/owner could register a dog whatever color they wanted to.
In other words, there were no set colors or patterns as per the standard they had to go by when registering a color or pattern at the time.
So often, you would see many different colors and markings listed than what you see today through AKC. 
Once the AKC had their official color & pattern list from ASC, some of the colors such as mahogany that were listed in the actual 
old AKC stud books, had been changed to red by AKC in a online pedigree search at AKC.

Sable is NOT a rare "color" like some say. It just isn't bred as often as the normal colors by the show community.
Many show breeders still have and breed sables, even though they cannot be shown in the USA.

But there are still many sables around. And like all colors, some are very nice representatives of the breed standard, 
while others are not.
Do your homework if looking to purchase a sable. Buy one from a responsible breeder who has the overall health, 
temperament and quality first and foremost and not just the "color".:-)


History of the current Sable Cockers

At one time, sable cockers competed in the American show ring with all other colors. Many achieved their AKC championships.
In the late 70's things started to change, and a 12 year fight ensued over the sable issue.
It wasn't until the 1990's that due apparently to Parent Club politics and some disgruntled breeders in a private war with each other,
sables were thrown out of the show ring and so far have never been allowed back in.
Many have tried to get it voted back in, but politics and unethical practices during that time by the ASC board has managed to either get the voted count 
counted against the sable, and has since refused to allow the club to vote on this matter. (*See the link to the Sable Time Line below, for
more detailed information about this matter)

One of the problems were that the parent club didn't know where to put the sables in the show ring, because of the overlay, according to ASC, 
they weren't considered a solid color. The parti sables were shown with the partis.
In todays world, the parti sables should be shown with the partis, the black sables in the black variety and brown sables shown in the ASCOB ring.
But some still feel that solid sable isn't actually a solid and since it has no white, the solid sables shouldn't be shown with the parti.

Back in the 1960's a little cocker was born called *Jolie Buttons. She was a black girl who was very tightly inbred. She was bred to
a parti and they produced a Mahogany (sable) named Sir Benjamin VII. 
She again was bred to a tricolor parti named Birchwood Bacharach, and they produced another Mahogany (sable) 
named Birchwood Mahogany Key, and a sable girl named Birchwood Mahogany Mirth.

*A little story about Jolie Buttons:
I (Connie) have been doing a pedigree of Jolie Buttons. I took it out as far as I could. I did an inbreeding report on her, 
and the pedigree is massively inbred. The number 1 dog she is bred on is Ronie II..30 times. 
This dog has more influence than any other dog in the pedigree. If you take his pedigree back, his great grandsire
is CH Rowcliffe Red Chief who was a sable.(in the original AKC stud book)
Ronie II himself was bred on Red Brucie 26 times and Robinhurst Foreglow 35 times, 
who was also thought to be a sable (Mahogany).
Jolie's grandsire on her dam's side was also CH Rowcliffe Red Chief.
There are no tan points to stop the sable from being passed down, so Jolie when bred to a tan pointed dog..would 
have had no problem producing sable.

Jolie was bred to BIRCHWOOD BACHARACH, a tricolor, and they produced BIRCHWOOD MAHOGANY KEY 
who was registered (in the actual AKC stud books) as a mahogany.
She was also bred to BROADLAWN'S CBS, a red & white parti and produced a sable, Sir Benjamin VII.
Now before anyone says..they couldn't have produced sable since Broadlawn's CBS wasn't tan pointed...his dam was, or at least carried
the tan point gene..
Broadlawn CBS's dam was CH KAMPS' KLEMENTINE, registered as a red & white but DID carry the tan point 
gene as she did produce tri when bred to CH Begay's Tan Man.
To see the inbreeding report click HERE (will come up as a PDF file)

This was in the the early 1970's and these dogs were behind many (but not all) of the sables of today, and the breeding that started the huge 
discussion on sables with the ASC.

Here is a partial list of some of the 30 or so sable cockers who achieved their AKC championship before they were removed from the conformation ring.
List of Cocker Champions, Color and Breeder/Owner..NOTE:Not a complete list

CH Artistry's Soot And Cinders
CH Barnestorme's Back Burner
CH BeGay's It Is Miss Elizabeth
CH Bi-Nan's Different But Luvable
CH Campbell's Kismet
CH Campbells Another Color II
CH Canter Go For Blue Ice
CH Charisma's Chasin' Rainbows
CH Glori-Land's Miscjones
CH Karavan's Silk 'N Sable
CH Lancer's Billy Bob
CH Legend Dudley Do Right
CH Legend I'm A Ten
CH Legend Precious Memories
CH Nosowea's No Label
CH Samurai's Classic Gold, CD
CH Samurai's Dust Devil
CH Schiely's Shakespeare
CH Schiely's Silk N' Sable 
CH Seven Arrows Dunmorr Dynasty
CH Trojan's Charcoal Sketch 
CH Wyndsong's All Fired Up
CH Wyndsong's Fancy Pants
CH Wyndsong's Flash Of Lightin' 

Chatosha's Night Odyssey, Hobbi-Hill's Half Carot, Lancer's Amaretto and Lorolet's Mahogany Maverick,
were pointed but were pulled from the ring when sables were disqualified.

Some of the earliest sables listed in the AKC and CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) stud books were:

Brown Bear (5-10-1927) Brown Sable
Gypsie (5-19-1930) Orange Sable
Hosking's Nancy (11-26-1924) Orange & Sable
Old Elms' Sable Sue {Red* F } A247244
Pete Holt (11-07-1939) Red with Black Ears
Rockfield Muffy (4-15-1909) (CKC) Sable & White
CH Rowcliffe Red Chief (11-1-1931) Sable
Ruben R (11-14-1911) (CKC-12525) Red Sable Male
Sable Bomber (5-12-1941) Sable
Sable Broc (5-12-1941) Sable
Sable Nipper ( 10-09-1944) Dark Sable
The Pied Piper Of Fieldhead (6-11-1934) Tan w/ black hairs
Zipper's Sable Boots ( 12-18-1938) Sable w/ white markings

Sables are still being bred and can still be shown in conformation in Canada and other countries. But because of the American Spaniel Club,
the AKC will not allow the sables to be shown in the USA. They can still compete in performance, and many have achieved performance titles.
Another problem, is sabling is considered a pattern, like the roans etc. But it is listed as only a color with AKC.
This needs to be addressed and changed as there are red sables, brown sables, black sables and clear sables. There are also sable roans.

Breeding Sables
(A quick, confusing course on sable genetics)

There are no health problems associated with the sable pattern.
The Sable gene is on the same locus (genetic marker) basically as the tan point gene. The dog has to have this sable or tan point gene or carry it in order to produce sable. They are represented as "ay" and "at". If a dog has 2 ay "genes" it will be what people call a clear sable; and really won't appear to look sable..it will basically look like a buff. If it has 2 "at" genes, it will be tan pointed ( e.g.: Black & Tan); If the ay "gene' pairs up with the "at" gene, then the dog will look and be sable. If a dog only carries 1 "at" gene, it will not look tan pointed, but it WILL carry for the tan point gene. This is why you can breed a sable to a solid dog or a dog that doesn't have tan points, but does carry for them (e.g. has a parent who is tan pointed) and produce sable. You cannot breed 2 tan pointed dogs together and produce sable, as the tan point gene will cancel out the sable, since the sable gene has to be on the locus for "ay or "at". Not all dogs carry the "at" or "ay" gene. So you have to study coat colors in your pedigrees to see. Just because you have sable in your lines, does not mean you can produce it.

For instance, one of my earlier girls was black & tan. Her sire was a sable. Because there was only room for either the ay or at genes to sit, she received both "at" genes and was black and tan, canceling out the sable. Her littermate got one of each and was a sable. The only way she would ever be able to produce sable, would for her to be bred to a sable. She would not be able to produce it if she was bred to another tan pointed dog or a dog carrying tan points.

Sable is a pattern but can basically be explained as tan points "Gone Wild" on a cocker. The area where the tan points are on a normal tan pointed dog, 
spread out all over the coat eventually.
The overlay on the coat, the nose and eyerim color is the actual color the dog is. 
But because the tan points have spread out, the dog appears red, mahogany brown, buff etc. with a darker color overlay. 
Sable is a pattern and what it does is it does not inhibit the tan points in a dog to stay in the normal areas, so it spreads out 
underneath the topcoat of the dog.
The correct color for the dog is the overlay such as a black sable, which actually would have been  a black & tan dog, but the sabling spread 
out under the coat and made just the overlay black. In a brown cocker, it would be a lighter tan color with the brown overlay, nose and eyerims.
In partis, it would be the same; the dark areas would be sabled with a darker overlay on the spots and the color of the dog would be the
overlay over the spots, eyerim and nose color.

So to produce sable, breed a sable to a dog with tan points or a dog known to carry tan points. You can breed a tan pointed dog to a 
non tan pointed dog that has a sable parent, or grandparent and so on, as long as there is no tan points gene between the 
sable in the pedigree and the current non tan pointed dog.
Sable to sable breeding of course, produces sable too with no health issues associated with the sable pattern.

It's not too hard to get the basics on the sable gene, once you figure it out . :-)

Bottom line,is to produce healthy and bred to standard, then add the sable as the icing on the cake ;-)
Breed for quality..  and not just color/pattern.

Sable Article
Written by Dr Francis Greer
from the book "COCKER CHAMPIONS in Story and Pedigree” Volume 2
(Special Thanks to Martin Belcke (CockerSpaniels.com) for taking the time to write this out & sending to me)

The advantage of having the color history of a breed is no better illustrated than in the controversy which arose a few years before 
these books were published. 
The appearance of sable and sable/white Cockers shocked many breeders.  It was rumored some years later by those who were 
not familiar with the breeding program that produced the litter that the Cocker dam had probably been bred by a Beagle. 

Dr. Little found that the sable gene is almost nonexistent in Beagles or so rare as to be insignificant. Dr. Phillips’ technical article 
on the inheritance of sable in Cockers was published in “The Journal of Heredity” in 1938. 
The article contained photos of the two subjects (a mother and son), both sable. 

The sable female was bred to a black dog which carried tan points recessive.  This produced a sable male which showed large 
areas of tan in the tan points areas.  The experiment confirmed Dr. Phillips’ theory of sable inheritance and the dominance of 
sable over tan points. 
The registered names of the two sables were not given in the article (it is not a practice to call the subjects by registered names). 
The names of the breeders and owners were given, and a search is now underway to identify the bloodlines from Stud Book records. 

Sable patterns in Cockers is relatively rare although it is (and was) probably more common than appears in the Stud Books. 
Breeders of previous eras tended to register them simply as “red,” disregarding dark hairs or visible indications of
tan points pattern in the normal locations. 

A disconcerting aspect of the color to genetic novices is the production of some blacks in litters from two “red,” 
one of which is actually a sable. 
This seems to be a violation of Dr. Phillips’ statement that buff to buff breeding can give only buff. 
Dr. Phillips’ reputation is not tarnished; buff to buff gives only buff as long as both are genetic buffs. 
A sable does not have a buff or red coat by virtue of the normal buff genes.  His lighter color comes from the action of the 
sable gene, and his breeding behavior with buff is controlled by his basic color – black or liver. 

The pedigree of CH Dogwood Rouge et Noir is in the pedigree section of this volume.  The name indicated that there must have 
been some black in his red coat; he was registered “red” by Lucy and Hagood Bostick who owned him. 
A photograph was necessary to examine his appearance since both Bosticks are now gone, but I expected to find one. 
Beth McKinney, English Cocker breeder and historian, knew of old magazines, found his picture in the February 1939 AKC Gazette! 

In black and white, the photo showed a dog that might well have been a black/tan because the tan pattern was so obvious. 
During the entire period when Rouge et Noir was shown, black/tans were still shown in particolor classes. 
The only chance for an answer to his color was to locate his show record. 
Beth delved into show records and found that he had earned all his points from the Solid Color Other Than Black classes. 
His chance of actually being sable rose to 99%. 
The next project was to see if his pedigree contained the lines of known sable producers.  And it did. 

Ch Billy Obo, Jr., his son, Ch Obo Donatello, and his sire, grandsire, and near relatives are ubiquitous in most sable pedigrees 
and have been shown to have produced sables directly in some cases. 
The black bitch involved in the recent legitimacy conflict has 12 crosses to Ch Obo Donatello, known carrier of the sable gene. 

The limited number of sable pedigrees chosen for this chapter illustrates the gene’s distribution geographically. 
They come from the East (Ch Dogwood Rouge et Noir), the Midwest, the Southwest, the far West, and from a combination of far 
West and Midwest bloodlines meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

A more extensive discussion of sable genetics and known sables is included in a booklet nearing completion for those interested 
in the subject. 
It is probable that the sable gene was preserved in Canada at the time those breeders were actively engaged 
in developing dark red Cockers. 

It is fortunate from the standpoint of genetics that Canadian-bred Ch Obo Donatello was brought to the States at an early age. 
He was outstanding; many bitches were sent to him, and a large number of his puppies were registered. 
Only AKC records provided color information, but many breeders were still averse to the procedure. 

I have traced 143 of Ch Obo Donatello’s sons and daughters out of 54 different bitches. 
He was black, but he carried the recessive genes for liver, sable, and parti-color.  He did not carry tan points or buff. 
His sire, Ch Billy Obo, Jr., remained in Canada until his breeder F.J. McGauvran, moved to California in 1922 and officially 
registered “Obo” with the AKC as his kennel prefix. 

I have traced all of Ch Billy Obo, Jr.’s AKC-registered offspring (69) out of 28 different bitches. 
He had recessive liver and particolor, and to addto the possibilities, it seems that he had a recessive buff gene as well as sable. 


The research on sable would never have reached its present stage without the help of others who have contributed greatly.  First, I am thankful that 
Don Harrison and Ed McCauley described the color of their black bitch’s first litter.  Together, we worked months studying the limited sable literature and 
planning the second litter.  The result was both confirmation of Dr. Phillips’ research and birth of a litter containing three solid sables and two open-marked 
parti-colors.  It was Don who engineered our recent acquisition of the Journal of Heredity containing Dr. Phillips’ article. 

Our sincere appreciation goes to the American Genetic Association and the editor of The Journal of Heredity, not only for furnishing a mint-condition 
copy of the February 1938 (Vol 29, No 2) Journal, but also for giving us permission to reprint the photos on pp. 67 and 68 in 
Dr. Phillips’ “Sable Coat Color in Cockers,” pp. 67-69. 

Beth McKinney of Redmond, Washington, deserves unlimited gratitude for her tenacious searching for a photo of Ch Dogwood Rouge et Noir and her equally 
spectacular unearthing of his show record which covered a time span between October, 1935 and the late spring of 1938. 

From  COCKER CHAMPIONS in Story and Pedigree” Volume 2, Austin and Greer.  Copyright 1983


Sables have been a hot issue for many years now. Many of us would like to see the sable allowed back in the show ring.
Some sable affectionados would prefer they weren't because they don't want the newer show lines bred into them, and 
changing the quality that they are. Others who prefer to breed champion show lines, would like the sables to be allowed 
back in the ring as they feel it would also help add new blood to the gene pool.
No matter what anyone thinks, sables are here to stay, and are a very pretty sight to behold.

Several years ago, the question was asked to why sables weren't allowed in the AKC ring and it was answered quite accurately by Evelyn Bravo, Chantrel Cockers.

I'll take a stab at an answer. 

First off, sables were never really accepted.  The former versions of the standard were simply not very specific with regards to color. 
It is only the current  version (approved in 1992) that has specific colors listed in each variety and the any color other than listed disqualification. 

Sables first began to appear in the show ring in the '70's (before my time).  There were many who did not like the color.  A few, I believe 3, solid sable champions 
were finished before a clause about the hair shaft being of uniform color was added to the ASCOB variety section of the standard (I think in the early '80's - again 
before my time).  Since the parti section was left untouched, and did not actually list all of the acceptable colors, it was left to the judges interpretation as to what where 
allowed colors.  So in the '80's you had the situation where sable & whites were shown, some judges put them up, some judges ignored them and other judges disqualified them. 

At the end of the '80's, the AKC Board of Directors wanted to make all of the breed standards follow a similar format.

This set the stage for the open discussion of the standard and the proposed changes that occurred at the 1990 Summer National in Atlanta.  (This was not before my time. 
I was there and sitting in the front row.)  One of the changes proposed by the standards committee, chaired by Dr. Al Grossman, was to specifically list the allowed colors 
in each variety and add the disqualification clause for any other color.  In the new version proposed by the committee, neither the solid sable or the sable & white color were
listed in the colors for the ASCOB or Parti variety. 

It was the position of the committee and the ASC board that the then current version of the
standard did not allow sable & whites and judges that did not disqualify them were in error. The membership in attendance expressed an overwhelming support of including 
sable and sable & white as allowed colors.  To compromise, the ballot that was sent out at the end of the year had two options, A & B, to vote on for varieties and colors 
(I can't remember which option had what). 

One choice had sable listed in ASCOB and sable & white in Parti and the other did not.

Here is controversy point #1:  the ASC constitution specifically states that changes to the standard are to be presented where you check a vote "for" or "against", not
check "A" or "B" as was done. 

Controversy point #2:  (Keep in mind that a 2/3 majority of the number of votes cast is needed to approve a standard change.)  There were several ballots returned with 
neither the "A" or the "B" box checked, in essence, abstentions.  According to Robert's Rules of Order, abstentions are not counted when calculating the total number of votes cast.
 If the ballots with neither box checked are regarded as abstentions and not used in determining the total number of votes cast, then the option with the sable and 
sable & white color had the 2/3 majority votes cast for approval.  The ASC board counted the blank ballots in determining the total number of votes cast and the allow sable 
option just missed having the 2/3 majority to pass. Since neither option had the required 2/3 majority to pass (according to how the ASC did the counting), the section on varieties was left unchanged.

However, the new disqualification section, which had the any color other than those listed clause, did pass.  The AKC board refused to approve the standard with the
new revisions because it now had an "any color other than those listed" disqualification clause, but the color variety section did not specifically list the colors. 

In late 1991 the ASC board sent out another standard change for approval.  The accompanying letter (and I wished I had saved it) said things like the AKC board insists 
we have this vote before they will approve the standard change, it is a mere formality, etc.  The letter never mention sables.  The standard section that was sent to be voted 
on with a "for" and an "against" boxes to be checked was the color variety section from the first ballot that did not list sables or sable & white.

The ASC board did not send out the section that has just barely not passed (or really passed if you go by Robert's), but the section that had what they felt was the correct 
interpretation of the colors allowed by the then current standard, ie, no sables.  Busy with the holidays, many ASC members just checked the "for" box and mailed it back
in, never realizing until told later that they had just voted to exclude sables.  The vote passed with an overwhelming majority, the AKC board approved the new standard 
and it went into affect the spring of 1992.  Five years later a petition to change the standard to allow sables had enough signatures to cause a vote.  The 1997 vote had a
majority, but not a 2/3 majority and did not pass.

With regards to why the color sable is not accepted by many, a persistent rumor is that it got into the cocker gene pool via a beagle.  A black bitch named Jolee Buttons, 
owned by Ed McCauley of  Birchwood cockers, produced the first modern sable offspring.  Ed's father, with whom he lived, had a hunting pack of beagles, which is what started 
the rumor that Jolee got with a beagle to make the sables.  There are two things that make this rumor
(1)  the beagle pack was all female. 
(2)  the gene that makes the sable color in cockers is a different gene than the gene that gives the beagle it's color and saddle pattern.

There was some evidence that the board was trying to keep pro-sable people from joining ASC just before the 1997 vote.  When the board was not allowed to discuss the 
membership candidates behind closed doors, they tabled everyone's application to the next meeting.

As to what it will take to get sables voted in, my answer dead bodies.  Too many high mucky-mucks within ASC have in effect (if not in actuality) said "sables will be 
admitted over my dead body."  In all seriousness, until these people are out of the picture I do not see sables being allowed.  Now please, don't anybody take this as 
direction to go out and kill anyone!!

Fortunately, most of these people are already senior citizens. I'm sorry if this seems negative and down.  As scarce as majors are, I sure wish sables were being shown!

Hope this answers your questions.

Evelyn Bravo 

Sable Links
For more information on sables you can click on the links here:

I have composed an indepth website dedicated to Sable Cockers. It has all of this information as well, including pedigrees, 

photos,genetics, other articles, history and more
Feel free to visit!!
Sable Cockers

"Sable Coat Color In Cockers"
This is an excerpt out of an article by James Mel. Phillips
Dated 1938, published in Journal Of Heredity #29

"The Sable Timeline"
The story about how Sable cockers were duped out of the ring

We Do Have A Standard
An article written by Michael Allen that helped fuel the fire AGAINST sables
and helped to get them thrown out (due to a personal vendetta she had against another breeder at the time)

Sable Cocker info from Artistry Cockers
Her story about her sables, including CH Artistry's Soot N Cinders, and sable genetics explained

For more information on Sables, join our Sable Cocker Discussion Group on Facebook!

©2007-2017 Written and Compiled by Connie Bliss-C'lestial Cockers
All Rights Reserved
If you want to "Borrow" this page for your website, please give credit




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