As today marks the start of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon to be precise, the ARKive team decided to take a closer look at the Chinese Zodiac. Based on a cycle of twelve years, each year is assigned a different animal, and it is said that those born in the year of a particular animal take on its attributes and personality. Intrigued, we thought we would have a rummage through the ARKive vaults and meet some of these cosmic creatures…
It is said that people born in the year of the rat are intellectual, charming and sociable. Historically, the brown rat is believed to have originated from China and is indeed highly sociable, living in ‘packs’, it is also one of the most adaptable species on earth.
Those born in the year of the ox are strong, dependable and hardworking, much like the magnificent muskox. Muskox are known for their characteristic defence behaviour, in which the herd bunch together, forming an impenetrable line or circle to protect their calves from predators.
People born in the year of the tiger are said to be powerful, courageous and affectionate. The tiger is a mighty predator, capable of taking prey much larger than itself, including water buffalo, rhinos and even small elephants.
If you were born in the year of the rabbit, you are said to be kind, sensitive and flexible. The rabbit certainly is highly adaptable, and living in groups of up to 30 individuals, it will warn other rabbits of danger by thumping its back legs on the ground.
It is said that those born in the year of the dragon, which begins today, are self-assured, noble and natural born leaders. The powerful Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world, and the strong males will wrestle each other for access to the females.
Those of you born in the year of the snake are thought to be wise, calm and responsible. The smooth snake itself is extremely secretive, catching its prey with a quick strike and subduing it by squeezing with the coils of its body.
People born in the year of the horse are thought of as cheerful, energetic and quick-witted. Przewalski’s horse certainly has reason to be cheerful – it had been declared Extinct in the Wild, but a careful captive breeding and conservation programme has since seen it successfully reintroduced.
If you were born in the year of the sheep, it is said that you are creative, sincere and sympathetic. The impressive looking bighorn sheep is well adapted to its rocky environment, with great agility and keen eyesight, it can also climb near vertical rock faces to escape from predators.
It is thought that people born in the year of the monkey are energetic, upbeat and good motivators. Sociable blue monkeys share the parenting duties between them, and live in groups of closely-bonded females, usually with a single male.
Those born in the year of the rooster are thought to be practical, honest and perfectionists. Red junglefowl are the wild ancestors of all domestic poultry, although the bold and brilliant rooster is said to be more brightly coloured than its tame relative.
People born in the year of the dog are said to be loyal, amicable and easy going. Many dingo populations live near human settlements, and can become very tame, although this brings with it the risk of hybridisation with domestic dogs – a real threat to the species.
If you were born in the year of the pig, you are said to be thoughtful, intelligent and well-mannered. The forest hog lives in groups of up to twenty, with the piglets protected by all the members of the group and able to nurse from any female.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. In honour of the Year of the Dragon, this week we will be revealing a different ARKive dragon on Facebook every day, as well as a whole host of fun facts, and fortune cookies to reveal what the future might hold for each species. Make sure you check it out!
You can also wish your friends, family and colleagues a Happy Chinese New Year by sending one of our Komodo dragon e-cards.
And finally, why not get creative and download our new dragon mask to cut out and decorate – the perfect accessory for your Chinese New Year party!
Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher