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Why does rat become the head of the twelve zodiac animals?

Updated on July 2, 2012

It's very interesting of many different legends that why rat became the head of the twelve, but recently there is a "scientific" explanation regarding why rat became head of twelve zodiac animals. The order of twelve zodiac animals were decided by the odd-even toe numbers according Yin Yang theory.

why does cat hate rats?

There are many different legends, according to one legend, many years ago Buddha summoned all the animals to a meeting in which he would designate the first 12 animals arriving, to be signs of a year respectively. On the night before the departure, cat notified his pal, rat, and they agreed that the one waking up first the next morning must awake the other so they can depart for the meeting together. However, rat broke his promise and arrived for the meeting alone. Then, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig arrived one after the other. When cat woke up and hurried there, the meeting was over. It is said that is the reason why the cat kills rats.

Animal Olympic game

According to another legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.

All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.

Yin Yang theory ----- a "scientific" explaination

Of course, these are only legends, in recent years, another more reasonable and credible explaination become popular. We know that Yin and Yang is the basic concept of Chinese philosophy. Yin and yang represent the two primal cosmic forces in the universe. Yin (moon) is the receptive, passive, cold female force. Yang (sun) is masculine- force, movement, heat. Actually, anything can be assign one of this attribute, man is yang, and woman is yin, single is yin and double is yang, Odd number is yin but even number is yang. They interact together and relatively. If you observe these twelve zodiac animals toes, you will find they may have different numbers of toes and their order are decided by odd -even numbers, that is to say, their order is decided by Yin-yang theory.

Whether the zodiac animals have two feet or four feet, most of them have only odd number of toes or only even numbers of toes, cow has four toes, an even number, followed five-toed tiger, odd-numbered, then rabbit has four toes, the legend figure dragon has five toes, but the snake has no foot, it has zero toes, zero is an even number, horse has only one toe, sheep has four toes, even; monkey has five, odd; Rooster has four toes, even; dog has five toes, odd, pigs has four toes, even. Buit there is one exception that rat has four toes on the front and five toes on back, so rat has both odd and even number, yin and yang in same body. We can say ancient Chinese can not fit rat anywhere but the head of the zodiac cycle, or we can say anything which has yin-yang in same body is superior, although rat live in dark and find its food in rubbish bin, and drink water from drainage.

So this kind of sientific explanation has cleared rat of his unjust treatment, give rat back its reputation.


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    • daviddwarren22 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nice.

    • Jewels profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      Glad I found this Jim. I'm a rat born 1960. This was a light and informative hub. Thankyou.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      so cool

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      but tigers and dogs have the odd fingers too? they have five in the front and four in the back.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      its great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California

      Having been born in the year of the rat, the Yin and Yang explanation is one I like! lol I always wondered why a gnarly rat was the choice of animal!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony T 

      11 years ago from London UK

      Very interesting read...Rats do get such bad press!!


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