Today, a Turkic calendar of twelve-year cycle is a wide spread in Central Asia, Siberia, the region of Ural and Volga, and Caucasus Turks. The common names of the 12 animals in the calendar, and the same legends of all Turkic and Mongolian people associated with them – is a clear evidence of this.
Mahmud Kashgar tells the following story about the cycle:
Turks chose twelve different names of the animals and then put them in twelve years; children’s age, the seasons of wars and other things were counted by the repetition of these years
It has a following basis:
One of the Turkic Kagans (king) wanted determine the time of the war which was a few years ago; he forgot the year of the war; at the end Kagan organized a congress with his nations and at the congress he said: “How we forget the time, after us will forget others in future; If so, let’s name each year in accordance with twelve constellations in the sky and number twelve now; let’s explain our trade turnover with these years; let’s make it as indelible mark between us”. The nation approved his suggestion.
Then Kagan went to hunt; He gives a command: “Bring animals to the Ili River”. It was a big river. People forced animals, drove away by the water. Preyed on animals; A group of animal jumped into the water; twelve went out of the water; each year was named after each animal out of the water.. The first animal was a mouse. For the being first, a mouse was remembered as the beginning of the year, and named as a “mouse year”; Then the names of the animals were put in the following order: Cow, Tiger, Rabbit, Snail, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog, Swine. Кезек доңыз жылына барғанда, айналым қайтадан тышқан жылынан басталатын болады.
Turks considered that each year has its own moral, and made predictions and calculated success based on that. In the year of Cow will be increased logging in the war because cows bunt with each other; the year of Chicken means the abundance of food and drink, but will be contradictions among the people. A snails’ year have been responsible for a lot of rain, because the snails float in the water; In the swine year there will be a lot of snow and cold, because the character is going to be a problem. Thus, the Turks believed that the same thing would be every year.
In the 14-15th centuries, it is known that this calendar was used under names such as “History and Turks” and “The Old Man and Turkan”. The author of the oldest Islamic source, a famous astronomer of his time (10-11 cc.), Biruni in his essay “Al-Athar-ul Bakiye” mentioned twelve animals on the calendar. A wide spread twelve-year cycle in the 13-16th centuries in the Turkic-Mongol Empire was extended under name of “Twelve animal Turkic Calendar”.