The Story Behind the Animal Cracker

The Story Behind the Animal Cracker
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The Story Behind the Animal Cracker

How did animal crackers came to be associated with the circus? What animals you can still find in a box today? Why is there a sting attached to a each box of Barnum's Animal Crackers? Find out here.

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Where Did They Come From?

England is the first country to have made animal crackers. At first, they were called "animal shaped biscuits" or "animals."

American companies began to make their own animal crackers when they became popular in the country in the late 1800s. in 1871, Stauffer’s Biscuit Company, one of the first to make animal crackers, debuted their first batch. Around this time many small bakeries began combining to form larger businesses with wider reach, either regionally or nationally. National Biscuit Company, now known as Nabisco, was formed through these changes.

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Why are animal crackers associated with the circus?

In 1902, the National Biscuit Company renamed their animal crackers "Barnum's Animals" after the popular circus which was home to many of the animals featured in the box. These animal-shaped cookies sold for just five cents a box. The name would again change in 1948 to "Barnum's Animal Crackers."

Image Credit: Planet Art

Why do boxes of Barnum's Animal Crackers have strings?

Around Christmas in 1902, the year Barnum's Animals debuted, the National Biscuit Company redesigned its packaging to look like a circus wagon carrying animals and attached a string to the top so people could hang a box of their cookies from their Christmas trees.

Image Credit: Joonbug

How Many Animals Are There?

There are different accounts as to how many different types of animals have been featured in the history of Barnum's Animal Crackers. By some accounts, 37 and by others, 54. Either way, today, we are down to 18, which include elephants, hyenas, monkeys, giraffes, gorillas, hippos and zebras.

Image Credit: Planet Art


These festive treats may remind you of a day at the circus as a child, but the story of how they came to be goes all way back to England in the late 1800s. The animal-shaped cookies soon made their way across the Atlantic to America, where they became so popular, exporters from England could not keep up with demand.

American businesses were quick to pick up the slack and companies like Stauffer's Biscuit Company, which still exists today, made their first animal crackers in 1871 out of York, PA.

Check out the slideshow above to find out how animal crackers came to be associated with the circus, what animals you can still find in a box today, and why there is a string attached to a each box of Barnum's Animal Crackers.

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