The twelve animal signs of the zodiac are (in this order): Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
Legend has it that the Jade Emperor, ruler of heaven, called all the animals to a race and said that the top twelve would enter the zodiac.
It is said that the rat and the cat were once very good friends and they were also the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom. Although poor swimmers, they were both highly intelligent. They decided that the best and fastest way to cross the river was to be on the back of an ox. The ox, being a good animal, agreed to carry them across the river.
However, because there was a prize involved, the rat decided that he had to do something in order to win, so he threw the cat into the water. That is why the cat became the natural enemy of the mouse and water. After this, the rat reached the shore and claimed first place in the race.
After the ox came the tiger, who explained panting how he fought against the currents. But his great strength made him reach the shore and become the third animal.
The 4th place in the zodiac went to the rabbit who, thanks to his ability to jump, was able to jump from one shore to another. He explained to the Emperor that he almost fell into the river had it not been for a log floating in the water.
Fifth place went to the dragon, who was able to arrive flying. He explained to the emperor that he could not get there first since he stopped to create rain to help the people and creatures of the earth. Also, at the finish line, he found a rabbit clinging to a log, which he helped by giving it a push with his breath so that it could reach the shore. The emperor, surprised by his kindness, awarded him the 5th place of the zodiac.
Shortly after the horse was heard galloping, to whom the snake gave a scare making it fall, so that it came in 6th place and the horse in 7th.
A short distance from the place were the sheep, the monkey and the rooster that approached the river bank. The three creatures helped each other to cross the river. The rooster built a wooden raft for the three animals. The sheep and the monkey cleared the undergrowth and finally, rowing and rowing, managed to reach the opposite bank. The emperor, very pleased with the teamwork of the animals, named the sheep the 8th animal, the monkey the 9th and the rooster the 10th.
The eleventh animal was the dog. Although the dog should have gotten a good place as he was the best swimmer of all the animals, he was delayed as he needed a bath after the long run and seeing the fresh water of the river he couldn’t resist.
Just when the emperor was about to close the race, he heard the growl of a small pig. The pig started the race hungry , so soon after it started he feasted and took a nap. When he woke up, he continued with the race and arrived just to be named the twelfth animal of the zodiac. The cat arrived too late (thirteenth), so he could not win any place in the
calendar, becoming the enemy of the rat forever.