According to one mythical legend, there is a reason for the order of the 12 animals in the 12 year cycle. The story goes that a race was held to cross a great river, and the order of the animals in the cycle was based upon their order in finishing the race. In this story, the snake compensated for not being the best swimmer by hitching a hidden ride on the horses hoof, and when the horse was just about to cross the finish line, jumping out, scaring the horse, and thus edging it out for sixth place.
The same 12 animals are also used to symbolize the cycle of hours in the day, each being associated with a two-hour time period. The "hour" of the snake is 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the time when the sun warms up the earth, and snakes are said to slither out of their holes.
The reason the animal signs are referred to as "zodiacal" is because a person's personality is said to be influenced by the animal sign(s) ruling the time of birth, together with elemental aspect of that animal sign within the sexagenarian (60 year) cycle. Similarly, the year governed by a particular animal sign is supposed to be characterized by it, with the effects particularly strong for people who were born in a year governed by the same animal sign.
The Year of Rat
Rat people are born under the sign of charm and aggressiveness. They are expressive and are talkative at times. They like to party and spend quite a lot of time chatting with their friends. Although the rat has the ability to be quiet, it is rare to see a rat sitting quietly. In general, rat people are nevertheless honest. They can always make a success out of their lives as long as they manage to master their perpetual discontent and their insistence on living in the present. A rat is not romantic but he is sensual and loving. Rat people are hard to get to know at first as they are very protective but they are worth it - ask anyone who has a rat for a lover, parent, child or friend. They are very loyal and devoted to their families.
The Year of Ox
Ox people are not terribly social and tend to be quiet at parties. Ox people are good observers with remarkable memories and can accurately report absolutely everything they see. In the home, the ox is great to have around. In business, the ox can succeed in the arts, a contracting business, or an estate, thanks to his creative nature. And since an ox is intelligent and good with his hands, an ox can be a good surgeon as well. Ox people are stubborn and dogmatic, believing firmly in their decisions and having no regrets. They are also very close to their families. Ox people often find that those who are close to them fail to understand them.
The Year of Tiger
The tiger is a born leader, fiercely competitive, and never afraid to fight. Tigers often get difficult and hazardous situations because they live dangerously. Narrow-mindedness and suspiciousness are their greatest faults. Their careers exemplified them as deep thinkers and careful planners, tigers are likely to succeed in sales, personnel management. They can be a good military leader, supervisors, teachers, firemen, or police officers.
The Year of Rabbit
Rabbit people are happy, gifted, refined and ambitious. They also know how to draw others' attention and are great mixers in any social gatherings. The typical Rabbit will be submissive, even humble, in a constant effort to avoid confrontations. Rabbit is an excellent judge of character, with an instinct for recognizing sincerity in others and an almost uncanny ability for sensing falsehood. Hare people make wonderful receptionists, publicists, stockbrokers, and pharmacists.
The Year of the Dragon
The Real Thing: The mythical dragon is a symbol of power and good fortune in Chinese culture. One of the most popular figures in Chinese art, the dragon is believed to be a combination of nine animals, including a frog, a tiger, an eagle, and a fish. Somebody who born in the year of Dragon go out of your way to help your friends, who often seek you out for advice, your outgoing personality helps you get along with many types of people.
The Year of Snake
The Real Thing: Snakes have great instincts. They can take more than an hour to swallow a meal, and they become inactive for up to two weeks before they shed their skin. If you were born in the year of Snake, you rely on your instincts before asking others their opinions. At times you want to take a break from the action. It's not that you're lazy—sometimes you just like to think.
The Year of Horse
The horse is an individual who uses his wits and his labor to fulfill his desires. They have boundless energy and ambition, are adept with money, and are hard workers. Active and energetic, horse people are good dressers and sexy. However, a horse loves to race or travel and often leaves home young. Individualistic and rebellious, horses despise conformity and guilt trips and often have a hard time fitting in to a group. They are more cunning than intelligent and tend to lack true self-confidence. Hot-blooded, hot-headed, and impatient, horses are famous for suddenly losing interest in something. Horses can also be somewhat egotistical and selfish.
The Year of Sheep
Sheep are nurturers. They enjoy taking care of other people. Like their animal counterpart, Sheep people are pretty calm individuals. Their personalities are quiet, reserved and soothing. They like to be in the company of others but do not wish to be in the middle of everything. They like standing in the back, watching contently from the sidelines, as others dazzle the company. Sheep will generally do better than they are aware because they are so good at keeping the peace and accomplishing the tasks at hand.
The Year of Monkey
The Monkey are mischievous, vain, and clever. Their most prized traits are originality, creativity, and education. People adore Monkeys for their wit, high intelligence, and interest in world affairs. Older and wiser Monkeys are able to channel their energetic and rich imaginations into the solving of complex problems. Monkeys people can succeed in professions such as business, trade, law, stocks, industry and politics.
The Year of Rooster
The rooster's loud cock-a-doodle-do attracts females and warns other males to stay away. The red comb on his head may help other roosters identify him, and it also sets him apart from other bird species. If you are born in the year of Rooster, you are practical and resourceful, and you use what you have to succeed without taking a lot of risks. A hard worker, you say what's on your mind and have a sense of style that sets you apart.
The Year of Dogs
You will never let you down, they are honest, and faithful, they put others first but often worry too much. You are attentive, well meaning, helpful, warm-hearted, altruistic, modest, devoted, philosophical, dutiful, discreet, intelligent and enthusiastic. Dogs can be a bit overwhelming, due in part to their attentive natures. They can march in and take control of a situation, even when it doesn't involve them directly. This can lead people to think Dogs are nosy or gossipy, but in reality, he just means well. Money and status don't matter to the Dog. He is more concerned with the welfare of his family and friends and will do whatever it takes to help them out of a tight squeeze or a rough spot.
The Year of Pig
Pigs are models of sincerity, purity, tolerance, and honor. When you first meet them, pigs seem too good to be true. They are careful and caring, obliging and chivalrous. Put your trust in them for they will never let you down and they will always try to do what's right. Pigs are born to give, to yield, and to serve, and so, unfortunately, most people take advantage of them. Pigs know they are easy to fool but don't really mind. No matter how old they get, pigs keep their faith in human nature and believe that people are basically good. Pigs tend to sacrifice their own happiness and comfort for the sake of others. In relationships, pig people are sensitive, sweet, naive, and caring. They are romantic and certainly are the marriage-type. But on the other hand, pigs can also be possessive, jealous and exclusive.