Here is the story of the Chinese Zodiac with an explanation of how each animal crossed the river.
The Great Race
Long ago, In China the Jade Emperor decided there should be a way of measuring time.
He told the animals there should be a race across the river, and the winner would be the animal the Chinese New Year would be named after that year, then every other animal would have their year in the order they finished the race.
The Ox helps the Cat and the Rat
All the animals lined up at the side of the river. The rat and cat were good friends, but they were worried as they weren’t good swimmers, they were clever in asking the ox if he could carry them across. The ox said “Of Course, climb on my back and I’ll take you across.
The Rat wins the Race
The rat and the cat jumped up and were very excited when the ox took the lead. They had almost reached the other side when the rat pushed the cat into the river leaving him to struggle. Just as the ox was about to win, the rat leapt on his head and onto the bank to finish first.
“Well done” said the Jade emperor to the proud rat. “The first year of the zodiac will be named after you. The poor ox had been tricked into 2nd and the second year of the zodiac would be named after him.
The tiger takes 3rd place
The exhausted tiger clawed his way to the bank to claim 3rd place. It was an enormous struggle for him swimming across the river , the emperor was so delighted that he named the 3rd year after him.
The rabbit hopped to 4th place
The rabbit was cheeky, he hadn’t swam across at all, he hopped on some stepping stones and then found a log floating which carried him to the shore. The 4th year was named after him.
The helpful dragon was fifth
The dragon swooped down to take 5th place . He made rain, because some people need to drink water , then he saw a rabbit on a log in the water so he blew a puff of wind.
He was the 5th year.
The snake surprised the Horse
The Jade emperor then heard the sound of the horse’s hooves. He thought the horse would be the next to arrive but a cheeky snake wriggled out from one of the horses hooves , the horse was so surprised he jumped back allowing the snake to take 6th place. The horse would have to settle for 7th.
The Goat, Monkey and Rooster worked together
A raft helped the Monkey, goat and rooster across. They told the Emperor that they had shared the raft the rooster found. The goat and monkey cleared weeds and pushed the raft to shore.
The emperor was pleased they had worked together.
The goat would be the eight zodiac animal, the monkey 9th and the rooster 10th.
The dog took a bath
Next to finish was the dog. The emperor asked “Why are you so late when youre one of the best swimmers. The dog explained that the water was so clean, he had to take a bath on the way.
The emperor named him the 11th zodiac animal
The boar claimed the last place
There was one last place and the Emperor wondered where the last animal was. He heard a grunt from the boar.
The Emperor said “You took a long time to cross”
The board explained that he was hungry and had to stop on the way to eat, and he felt tired after the meal so he fell asleep.
The emperor said he still had done well and the 12th and final zodiac year would be named after him.
The cat crawled out of the water
The cat who had been pushed in by the rat eventually crawled his way over the bank, but unfortunately was too late to have a year named after him. He felt very angry with the rat, and since then cats have never been friends with rats. From that day to the present day, the Chinese Zodiac has followed this cycle of years named after the animals.