In Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself. It is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs and many western descriptions of Chinese astrology draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals), by day (called true animals) and hours (called secret animals).
While a person might appear to be a Dragon because they were born in the year of the Dragon, they might also be a Snake internally, an Ox truly and Goat secretively.
The 60-year cycle consists of two separate cycles interacting with each other. The first is the cycle of ten heavenly stems, namely the Five Elements (in order Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water) in their Yin and Yang forms.
The second is the cycle of the twelve Zodiac animal signs or Earthly Branches . They are in order as follows: the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. In Vietnam the rabbit is replaced by the cat.