There are many stories of how the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac came about. Today, we’ll look at a version involving an emperor, a race, and a friendship that turns into an eternal feud.

Different countries in East and Southeast Asia tell their stories differently.

In one version of the story, the Jade Emperor called various animals to apply as guards. Their ranking as guards would depend on their position in the race. Apparently, the ox was willing to give the rat a ride if he would sing throughout the race. The rat might have been a terrific singer considering how insufferable having someone sing to you can get. Nonetheless, the ox considered singing a fair payment for his efforts.

In the Vietnam version of the story, there is no ox. Instead, they have the buffalo taking up the second place. Additionally, in the rabbit’s place, there is a cat.

All these tales aside, one thing that stands out in all these stories is that the animals represent various days, hours and even months. For example, the hours starting from 11 pm to 1 am are associated with the rat, and for one simple reason — these rodents usually rummage for food during these hours.

So, the animals in the Chinese Zodiac have certain features that are thought to be present in people born over the periods they represent. For instance, although pigs are not considered very attractive, they are very active. Rabbits, on the other hand, might be kind, but they also possess a lot of inner strength.

Therefore, let’s take a closer look at how various animals made it into the Chinese Zodiac.

Once upon a time, the Jade Emperor, whom you can also call the Emperor of the Heaven and Earth if you like, saw it fit to give his earthly subjects a way to determine the passage of seasons. He had a bold solution — to find an answer from the animal kingdom. It was simple, an animal would represent each of the 12 sections of the year.

Although the news was most welcome, it was not clear which animals would serve this purpose. The animal kingdom has a lot of animals, but only 12 were needed.

In his ingenuity, the emperor decided there would be a race. These animals would swim through a strong current, and the first 12 animals to make it across would have their names immortalized in the zodiac.

Some animals were up to the task, but others didn’t have a chance unless someone was willing to assist.

The cat and the rat, for instance, being terrible swimmers but great friends, managed to convince the ox to help them out. The ox turned out to be an excellent swimmer, and the three animals were poised to become the first three winners in the race.

But the rat was not willing to settle for the second place. So, as the race neared completion, it pushed the cat into the water to reduce its competition. And once the ox was on the shore, it quickly jumped ahead and crossed the finish line first. The ox managed a respectable second place.

The tiger took the third place, and the rabbit settled for the fourth position. However, the rabbit did not complete the race without a fair share of challenges. It had completed the journey by hopping from one stone to the next. While it was a great plan, a mistake saw it get into the water. But it was smart enough to ride on a floating log and as luck would have it, a gust of wind pushed the rabbit and the log to the bank.

Surprisingly, despite its power of flight, the dragon came in fifth. Even the emperor was baffled by its poor showing and wanted to know what had taken place. However, the dragon was caught up in an emergency. He was helping a farmer put out a fire in his field.

The horse would have taken sixth place, but it was spooked and froze when it saw the snake, which confidently claimed the sixth place. The horse had to settle for the seventh place.

The sheep, the monkey, and the rooster had worked together to create a raft. However, the monkey and the rooster agreed that the sheep deserved the eighth place for keeping its cool while the two panicked during the race. The monkey took the ninth position, while the rooster became 10th in the race.

The dog, despite its great swimming skills, managed the eleventh position. Apparently, the delights of playing with the water distracted it from the race.

Finally, the pig took the twelfth place. The problem was that the race left it famished, and once it got to the riverbank, it started looking for food. It even took a quick nap before getting up to claim the last place in the Chinese Zodiac.

The cat did not like how things turned out, and the feud between it and the rat was born.