Scene summaries may contain spoilers
The Jade Emperor has invited the animals for a race that will decide the order they will rank in his Royal Guard. He is surprised that Cat has not shown up. Rooster asks Rat where Cat is since they live together and Rat insists that she doesn't know. The Emperor outlines the course and says that there will be a great feast at the end. Ready? Go!
Up on the Great Mountain, Rat, Dragon, Horse, and Monkey are moving quickly, but Tiger and Ox are ahead, charging down the mountain pass. Monkey calls after them to be careful, but Tiger stumbles on the loose rocks. Monkey asks Rat what happened to Cat and Rat is evasive but finally admits that she forgot to tell Cat and she's probably still sleeping. Rat promises to apologise later. Speaking of missing animals, has anyone seen Snake? Monkey interrupts to ask if anyone can smell burning. Dragon sees that a village is on fire and rushes off to help. Monkey goes to make sure Sheep and Rooster don't get lost, and Rat runs ahead.
Ox attempts to ford the river. Rat clings to his horns and taunts Tiger who fell behind. Ox and Rat reach the other side, but while Ox struggles in the mud, Rat scampers ahead to win the race! Ox comes in second and is a little disapproving of Rat, who says that at least Ox has been saved from a life of bureaucracy.
Rabbit makes it to the river just in time to see Tiger make it across. The water is too cold for Rabbit to swim, but she jumps between logs, aided by a mysterious breeze, and makes it the other side with Dragon just behind. They cross the finish line! When questioned, Dragon tells the Emperor about helping the burning village and creating a breeze to help Rabbit. They were impressed by her determination.
Horse makes it to the river and finds Pig already there, enjoying a meal of reeds. Pig spots something, and worriedly tries to point it out to Horse. From the finish line, Rat and Ox tell Horse that Snake has stowed away in her mane! Horse panics and tries to kick Snake off, but Snake has already gone, finishing sixth, and Horse takes seventh place.
Monkey, Rooster, and Sheep reach the river and discuss the best way to get across. They find a raft hidden in the reeds and decide to try that. Unfortunately, the raft is full of holes. Sheep orders Monkey to stuff river weeds in the gaps to stop them sinking. Despite nearly crashing into Dog, they make it to the far bank. Monkey and Rooster let Sheep go ahead of them in gratitude, then race each other to the finish line as friends.
Dog finally crosses the finish line, which means only Pig is left. Rat shouts at Pig to hurry up, and finally everyone is assembled. The Jade Emperor declares that the results of the race will be immortalised in the Zodiac calendar. Each year in a twelve-year cycle will be named for one of the animals who competed, and they will guide people during that year. Now that the race is over, it's time to feast!