By Amanda Longoria, NETUNO USA

Many moons ago, the Jade emperor decided to invite all the animals in his kingdom to a Great Race. The race involved crossing a great river, which would be a great challenge to the animals. As a reward, the emperor decided that the first 12 animals to cross the great river would be rewarded with a sign in the Chinese zodiac.

Being best friends and poor swimmers, the cat and the rat approached the good-natured Ox and said, “Let’s win this one together!” The Ox agreed, allowing the cat and the rat to jump on his back for the race. They were just about to cross the finish line together when the eager rat accidentally pushed the cat out of the way and jumped over the Ox’s head and crossed the finish line first, with the Ox a close second.

In third, was the ever persistent tiger. Tired from the swim, it was relieved that the race was over. Soon after, the rabbit crossed the finish line. The rabbit had a little help from a nearby log that allowed it to float safely across due to a strong gust of wind.

In fifth place was the dragon, who soared through the skies and landed at the Emperor’s feet. The Emperor asked the dragon, “Why are you fifth dragon, if you can fly?” The dragon explained he was delayed due to stopping to help extinguish a fire in a nearby field. This was the gust of wind that helped the rabbit across.

The horse galloped across the river in what appeared to be a lock for sixth place, when the snake slithered up out of nowhere and crossed the finish line just before the horse did. The horse would be the seventh sign instead.

Just then, a raft with the sheep, monkey and rooster made it to shore. They all arrived together, but both the monkey and rooster felt the sheep should go first because he was the only one to remain calm throughout the journey. He helped keep their team together and because of that was awarded with eighth place. The monkey and rooster were ninth and tenth.

Not long after the dog arrived to take eleventh place. As the best swimmer of the group, the Emperor was curious. “Why are you eleventh dog, if you’re a great swimmer?” The dog admitted he was having too much fun playing in the river and forgot about the race!

The Emperor and the first eleven winners waited at the bank of the river eagerly to see who would be the last to cross the finish line when they all heard a loud “SNORT” The pig, left hungry by the long and arduous swim, stopped at the riverbank to look for food! It ate so much that it took a quick nap, only to wake up and realize the race was still going on. He made it JUST in time!

The cat, however, washed ashore on the wrong side of the river and looked on with envy at the Emperor and his 12 champions in celebration. He swore he would never speak to the rat again and their ancestors have been enemies ever since!