What do Ludwig van Beethoven, Agatha Christie, Marie Curie, Charles de Gaulle, Ho Chi Minh, Groucho Marx, Karl Marx, Demi Moore & Plato have in common? (Yes I know. Name 9 people who have never been in my kitchen.) They were all born in the Year of the Tiger! According to the Chinese Zodiac, Tigers are straightforward, sensitive and courageous. They get along with Horses and Dogs, and may have conflicts with Monkeys.
But we all know that "Tigers are perfect, The E-Pit_o_Me of good looks and grace and quiet dignity."
Ever wonder how the 12 Zodiacal animals were chosen? One Chinese story tells of the Rat & the Elephant:
The Jade Emperor had asked twelve animals to rank their merits over their peers.
The Bull said it helped the farmer to plow the fields.
The Tiger said it was strong and powerful.
The Rabbit said it was the famous Jade Rabbit of Chang Era.
The Dragon said it symbolized Kingship and Royal Descendant.
The Snake said it was smart.
The Horse said it could travel thousands of miles.
The Lamb said it provided wool for clothing.
The Monkey said monkey-see-monkey-do, and it could do whatever human could.
The Rooster said its calling woke up the farmer in the morning.
The Dog said it was the best friend of human and it protected them.
The Pig said its meat tasted good.
When it came to the Rat, it simply said, 'I am the King of the jungle!' Everyone laughed but the Rat continued, 'Who do you think was the King of the jungle?' When all the animals agreed that the Elephant was, the Rat swiftly ran into the ear canal of the Elephant and brought it to its knees. After this, all animals agreed that the Rat should make it at the top of the list.
The Japanese refer to the Zodiac (Rat鼠 Ox牛 Tiger虎 Rabbit兎 Dragon龍 Snake蛇 Horse馬 Sheep羊 Monkey猿 Rooster鶏 Dog犬 Boar猪) as 干支 (eto) and there's another variation on an old Chinese folk tale that answers the questions: Why is a Rat #1 and why is the Cat left out? You can check out the Wikiversion or here's a summation:
Basically, the Mountain God offered 12 animals an opportunity to report to him and proposed a race to see what order they'd be in. 13 animals vied for the competition including a cat & a rat who were best friends. The rat knew he didn't stand a chance so allowed his buddy to sleep in and thus missed the race. That's why cats & rats are such enemies today. The rat rode to victory on the head of the ox and jumped off just before arrival and scurried on ahead to win.
You can buy this version of １２支のはなし by clicking that link, but I know you're all too cheap to do so. Therefore, here is the story for you with a whole menagerie of cheery animals (up until the last panel, that is.)