20 January 2023

You may be wondering why the lunar years each bear the name of a different creature – and why there are twelve of them. It’s based on an ancient tale, and it goes a little like this…

The story goes that…

A race was organised by the Jade Emperor

who invited all the animals in the world to take part. Twelve animals turned up at the start line: pig, dog, rooster, monkey, goat, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger, ox and rat.

As a reward for turning up, the Emperor named a year in the zodiac after each one and the race would determine the order.

The course included a huge river which every creature, large or small, had to cross.


In first and second place

The rat used its cunning to persuade the ox to let it sit on its head as it crossed the river. Rather than say thank you on the other side, the rat made a dash for the finish with the ox not far behind.



Third, fourth and fifth

Not surprisingly, the tiger ran a good race but a current in the river sent it off-course. It recovered enough to cross the line behind the ox and came in at number three.

Next was the rabbit. Tired by the race, it nearly got swept away in the river but saved itself on a floating log and drifted to shore to finish fourth.

In fifth place was the dragon. A kinder creature than legend suggests, it didn’t hesitate to stop to extinguish a fire in a nearby village. Once it got back to the course, it saw the rabbit struggling and used its breath to blow it safely to shore. The rabbit never learned who helped it and the dragon was content to finish in fifth.


Numbers six and seven

The horse wasn’t far behind the dragon. However, it hadn’t noticed that the snake was wrapped around one of its legs, hitching a ride. With the finish line in sight, the snake uncoiled itself and frightened the horse enough to slither into sixth, leaving the horse to take seventh place.



Finishing eighth, ninth and tenth

The goat, monkey and rooster crossed the river in a great example of teamwork, each utilising their unique skills to cross the river on a small raft. Once on the other side it was a dash for the finish. The goat was first, followed by the monkey and then the rooster.



The final two

Dog owners won’t be surprised that the dog was more interested in playing about in the river rather than crossing it. It eventually ran over the line in eleventh place.

Which leaves the pig. The pig got peckish during the race. After stopping for food, it became sleepy and dozed off. It did wake up after a while and managed to make it over the line in last place.



Why isn’t there a Year of the Cat?

Why you may ask does the feline not feature in the zodiac?

Well, that’s down to the rat.

Although the pair were friends, the cat asked the rat to wake it up for the race as it had a habit of sleeping in. On the morning of the race, the rat was so excited to leave that it forgot to wake the cat. By the time the cat woke up, the race was over. That, according to the story, is why cats and Rats are enemies to this day. And that is why there is no Cat in the Lunar Zodiac.