The sable is a medium-sized forest-dwelling mammal belonging to the weasel family. They go by names such as cibelina, kuroten, sobal, soopeli, zibelina, zibeline, and Zobel. Their names vary depending on their location.

Scientific Classification

M. zibellina

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

M. zibellina

A group of sables is called richesse. Sables have many subspecies, like Martes zibellina brachyura, Martes zibellina jakutensis, Martes zibellina averini, Martes zibellina tungussensis, etc.

Sable Animal


Size: Length:  Females:  14–20 inches (35–51 cm); Males:15–22 inches (38–56 cm)

Weight: Females: 1.5-3.4 lbs. (0.7 – 1.56 kg);  Males: 1.94–3.97 lbs. (0.88 –1.8 kg)

Tail: Females: 2.8–4.5 inches (7.2–11.5 cm);  Males: 3.5–4.7 inches (9–12 cm)

Body and Coloration: Sables have slender bodies, similar in appearance to pine martens (Martes martes). They have elongated heads with round ears and relatively short tails. Their coloration varies depending on their locations, and some even have light patches around the throat.

Fur: Unlike other animals, sables’ fur is rich in smoothness, and the density of its silkiness surpasses that of foxes, minks, and every other type of fur. It maintains its smoothness regardless of what direction it is stroked. The texture of the fur changes slightly depending on the seasons; in winter, it is lusher and longer than in summer. The colors of their fur range between brown and beige, gold, silver, grey, and black.

Brown Sable Animal
Black Sable Animal

Range and Distribution

The distribution of sables ranges from the Ural Mountains throughout Siberia and Sakhalin in Russia. They are also found in China, eastern Kazakhstan, North Korea, northern Mongolia, and in Hokkaidō, Japan.


This animal prefers to inhabit dense forests. They are found in taiga forests in lowland and mountain regions, influenced by spruce, pine, larch, cedar, and birch. They occupy both coniferous and deciduous forests across northern Eurasia.


The diet of these omnivorous mammals varies depending on the seasons. During the summer, they usually consume a large number of small mammals like hares. They feed on pine nuts, wild berries, rodents, and small musk deer during the winter. Their diet also includes ermine, small weasels, birds, and fish.


  • Sables are mostly diurnal creatures but often hunt during twilight.
  • This animal shows solitary behavior throughout the year except during mating season.
  • Mainly terrestrial; however, they are known to climb trees should the need arrives.
  • These mammals hunt by marking scent and sound.
  • They live in burrows built in the thickest areas of the forest and near river banks.
  • Usually dug among the tree roots, these burrows are well hidden by shed fur and grass.
  • Their home territories range between 1.5-11.6 square miles depending on the availability of food and local terrain.
  • They store prey in their burrows for later consumption when the weather gets extreme.
  • This species is extremely vicious in the wild.


The lifespan of a sable is 18 years in the wild; however, it can extend up to 22 years in captivity.


  • Their acute sense of hearing helps them locate their prey.
Baby Sable Animal
Sable Animal Image

Mating and Reproduction

Their mating season lasts from June to August. They “rumble” in a cat-like manner, jumping and running while courting partners. Violent fights break out between males in competition for mates.

After 245-298 days of gestation, females give birth in hollowed trees. The litter comprises 1-7 babies, with litters of 2 or 3 being the most common.

The sable cubs are born 3.9 to 4.7 inches (10 to 12 cm) in size with weight ranging between 0.88-1.23 oz. (25-35 grams). A thin layer of hair covers their skin. After birth, their eyes typically remain closed until 30-36 days. Around seven weeks, the cubs start weaning. The mothers nurture and suckle babies during their early days. The fathers forage and defend the burrow during this period. The sables become reproductively mature at the age of two.


Despite being predators, they are hunted by eagles, foxes, large owls, lynxes, tigers, wolves, and wolverines.

Picture of a Sable Animal

Conservation Status

In the IUCN red list, the sable is listed as “Least Concern” or “LC”. Although the Japanese subspecies of sable, M. zibellina brachyurus, is listed as “Data Deficient” by IUCN in 2007.

These animals faced population decline in the past due to excessive hunting in Russia for their fur, which is an expensive good even today. However, at present, their population has been growing in the wild and as well as in captivity.

Interesting Facts

  • Henry VIII, the Tudor king, decreed that only nobles ranking from Viscount and higher could wear sable fur.
  • Sables sometimes interbreed with pine martens. Their hybrid babies are called ‘kidus’. They are smaller in size than fully-grown sables with coarse fur.
  • Despite their friendly appearance, these animals do not make good pets due to their vicious nature.

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