Legends and mythology are a big part of Chinese and Tibetan cultures, especially in relation to the Chinese/Tibetan Zodiac calendars. The 12 animals that appear on the calendar include a rat, buffalo (ox), tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat (or sheep), monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.” There are many stories/legends embedded in the Chinese mythology. Below is one:
An unlikely gathering
“The most well-known of the Chinese zodiac legends states that Buddha invited the animals to participate in a race. The prize was a coveted position on the Chinese Zodiac calendar. The first 12 animals to cross the river would appear on the Chinese Zodiac calendar in the order in which they completed the race.
“The first animal to make it across the finish line, according to Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology was the rat. It seems unlikely that such a small animal could win such a strenuous race, especially when one considers al the contenders.
One legend explain that the rat used his brain rather than his brawn and hitched a ride on what it perceived was the mightiest swimmer. Just before the buffalo reached the shore, the rat jumped off the buffalo’s back and crossed the finish line before the buffalo, putting itself in first place.
The buffalo came in second and as promised in the legends and mythology, was the second animal listed on the Chinese Zodiac. The tiger, also being strong, came in third, followed by the rabbit that jumped his way across and was helped during the last stretch by the dragon. A snake hid in the hoof of the horse, which is how it managed to make it across the river. At the last minute the snake jumped out and scared the horse into seventh place.
The sheep, monkey, and rooster helped one another across and earned their spots on the calendar as well. The dog made it too, but decided a bath was more important than the position, which is why it came. In eleventh. Finally, the pig appeared and is listed last. According to the legend, the pig feasted and rested half-way through the race, but made it across, guaranteeing its position.
Another legend tells of an invitation to a grand feast. All the animals were invited to join Buddha at either a birthday celebration, a New Year celebration, or a celebration or his departure from the world. Only 12 animals showed up at the festivities, and that’s how they ended up being featured on the calendar. Another of the legends states that instead of Buddha, it was the Jade Emperor who invited the animals.