The Year of the Horse

Welcome to the Year of the Horse (which begins on Feb. 5 and lasts until around the end of January 2003).

Everyone born this year (and this time every 12 years) will fall under the Horse sign of the Chinese zodiac. According to the sages, they will grow up to be hard working, independent, intelligent, but a little selfish. The same goes for all those born in 1990, and every 12 years going backward.

While many people can find out their sign just by looking at the placemat at their local Chinese restaurant, most don't know how the system began. Thousands of years ago, so the legend goes, Buddha invited all the animals of the earth to visit him on New Year's Day – around Feb. 5, according to the Chinese calendar. However, only 12 animals arrived: the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Boar.

Because these animals did heed Buddha's call, Buddha honored them by awarding each a year of its own. Every 12 years, a particular animal's year comes up. Next year, for instance, is the Sheep's turn, then the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog, and so on.

Some signs are made for one another; otherwise they are advised to avoid each other like the plague. Besides a strong work ethic, intelligence and independence, Horses are known for excitement. Their souls are restless and wild, and they are difficult to rein in.

Famous people who were also born under the sign of the Horse include: Rembrandt, Davy Crockett and Theodore Roosevelt. The Horse is compatible with the Ram, the Tiger and the Dog.