Did you know that 2011 was the Year of The Rabbit according to the Asian astrological calendar? In fact, when we arrived in Tokyo for an exotic pet conference, our hosts gave us several gifts featuring rabbits (perfect for exotic animal veterinarians, especially since many of our lectures were about rabbit medicine and surgery!). When we shopped in the markets, there were rabbit figures, paintings and etchings everywhere.
One of our hosts, Kazuyo Sone explains: “We have eto; it’s like an oriental zodiac, which was originally Chinese. We use the junishi system, which has twelve animal signs, each indicating a year within a 12-year cycle. The 12 animals in turn are: mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and wild boar.” Kazu went on to explain the mythology behind the signs: “In the old days, Japanese god told many animals, ‘I will choose 12 animals for junishi in order of arrival.’ An ox is so slow at walking that he left very early. At that a mouse jumped on the head of the ox, jumped off the ox’s head in front of the god. So, mouse became the first animal of junishi. A cat had forgotten the date of god’s selection, so he asked the mouse. The mouse told the cat the wrong date purposely! The cat was not chosen a member of the 12 animals. The cat still runs after the mouse! At the day of god’s selection, a wild boar arrived at god’s place first, but the boar went past, because he ran full speed and could not stop. He had to turn back. So, the wild boar was the last animal.”
Kazuyo says that exotic pet ownership tends to increase in the specific exotic’s year. Of course the year of the rabbit means more pet rabbits." In the year of the rooster, people want to keep finches, budgerigars, cockatiels and so on. In the year of the snake, snake toys sell well, but in Japan, pet snakes are still not very popular."
According to junishi, we now welcome the year of the DRAGON! We are guessing (hoping) this means an increase in ownership of one of our favorites, the BEARDED dragon!