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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 9:29 EDT

Sable

The sable (Martes zibellina) is a small mammal. It is closely akin to the martens, living in northern Asia from the Ural Mountains through Siberia and Mongolia to Hokkaidō in Japan. Its range in the wild originally extended through European Russia to Poland and Scandinavia. It has achieved fame for its fur, which is integrated into various clothes fashions. Sables range in color from tan to black, black being the most prized.

Sables are diurnal predators, using their sense of smell and hearing to hunt for small prey. They have been observed to hide in their dens for days during periods such as snowstorms, or when humans are hunting them. In the wild they are potentially vicious. There are “domesticated” sables that have been described as playful, curious, and even “tame” (if taken from their mother at a young age). They are mostly terrestrial, hunting and constructing dens on the forest floor. They feed on chipmunks, squirrels, mice, small birds and fish. When primary sources are scarce they eat berries, vegetation, and pine nuts. When weather conditions are extreme they will store their prey in their den.

Sable hair is used both for the fur industry as well as for paintbrushes. Sable fur makes the finest watercolor or oil paint brushes and is especially sought after by artists. The Kolinsky sable-hair brush is produced using the winter fur of the male sable, and considered the highest quality artist brushes available.

The term has become a generic description for some black-furred animal breeds, such as sable cats or rabbits.

Sable