Animal cracker

Animal crackers are crackers in the shapes of animals, some brands of which are sweetened. These are usually animals one would see at the zoo or circus, including lions, tigers, bears, and elephants. There is debate about whether or not Animal crackers are actually crackers or cookies. They are like crackers due to the way they are made, with layered dough, however the use of sweetened dough gives them the cookie taste and consistency. Traditionally they come in a box with a handle on the top. The string handle was originally added so that the box could be hung on a Christmas tree or house plant.
Nabisco makes Barnum's Animal Crackers, arguably the most famous commercially produced version of the snack, due to the distinctive package art of a circus cage on wheels and full of animals. "Barnum" refers to the famous showman and circus entrepreneur P. T. Barnum. The product actually says "Barnum's Animals", subtitled "Crackers". At one time, the imprinted "wheels" bent around the bottom of the box, and the box's bottom was perforated to allow the wheels to be opened up straight and thus stand the box on its "wheels".

Austin, a division of the Keebler Company, also makes a variety of animal crackers. Although not nearly as popular, the Austin-variety has similar nutritional content and animal shapes.

Stauffer Biscuit Company of York, Pennsylvania also has a line of animal crackers, which are now distributed by several major discount retailers. Their use of the spices nutmeg and mace give the basic animal cracker a slightly different character from the Nabisco crackers.

The Borden corporation also produced a brand of animal crackers, until some time in the late 1970s. They came in a red box, which featured the famous Elsie the Cow logo.


In the late 1800s, animal-shaped cookies (or "biscuits" in British terminology) called "Animals" were imported from England to the United States. The demand for these crackers grew to the point that bakers began to produce them domestically. Stauffer’s Biscuit Company produced their first batch of animal crackers in 1871 in York, Pennsylvania. [ [ Stauffer's - Stauffer's Company History ] ] Other domestic bakeries, including the Dozier-Weyl Cracker Company of St. Louis and the Holmes and Coutts Company of New York City, were the predecessors of the National Biscuit Company, today's "Nabisco Brands".

Under the National Biscuit Company banner, animal biscuit crackers were made and distributed. It was in 1902 that animal crackers officially became "Barnum's Animals" and evoked the familiar circus time theme. Later in 1902, the now-familiar box was designed for the Christmas season with the innovative idea of attaching a string to hang from the Christmas tree. Up until that time, crackers were generally only sold in bulk (the proverbial "cracker barrel") or in large tins. These small cartons, which retailed for five cents at the time of their release, were a big hit and are still sold today.

The number and variety of contained in each box has varied over the years. In total, 54 different animals have been represented by animal crackers since 1902. In its current incarnation, each package contains 22 crackers consisting of a variety of animals. The most recent addition, the koala was added in September 2002 after being chosen by consumer votes, beating out the penguin, walrus and cobra.

In 1948, the company changed the product name to its current designation of "Barnum's Animal Crackers". Later, in 1958, production methods changed to improve the crackers' visual details. Until then animal shapes were stamped out of a dough sheet by a cutter. This produced outlines with little sophistication. By installing rotary dies, bakers actually engraved details onto each cracker, creating a much more intricate design. The rotary dies are still used today.

Barnum's Animal Crackers are all produced in the Fair Lawn, NJ Bakery by Nabisco Brands. More than 40 million packages of Barnum's Animal Crackers are sold each year, both in the United States and exported to 17 countries worldwide. The crackers are baked in a convert|300|ft|m|sing=on long traveling band oven. They are in the oven for about four minutes and are baked at the rate of 12,000 per minute. Fifteen thousand cartons and 300,000 crackers are produced in a single shift, using some thirty miles of string on the packages. This runs to nearly convert|8000|mi|km of string a year. Those bright circus boxes are produced in three colors - red, blue and yellow - with different variety of animals on each.


In total there have been 37 different animals featured in Barnum's Animal Crackers since 1902. The current crackers are tiger, cougar, camel, rhinoceros, kangaroo, hippopotamus, bison, lion, hyena, zebra, elephant, sheep, bear, gorilla, monkey, polar bear, seal and giraffe. To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Barnum's added the koala to the menagerie in September 2002. []

Austin Zoo Animal Crackers currently feature bear, camel, elephant, rhinoceros, lion, monkey, owl, penguin, rabbit, ram, turtle, and zebra.

Cadburys Animals are Chocolate coated (although rather sparingly) and feature elephant, monkey, lion, tiger and hippo - all with nicknames and all rather the same shape.

Stauffer's animal crackers include a lion, elephant, mountain goat, cow, house cat, camel, tiger, horse, ibex, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, buffalo (or bison) and bear. They are made in plain, chocolate graham, cinnamon graham, cotton candy, and iced flavors, as well as "breakfast cookies" made with oats, almonds, cranberries, and pomegranate.

Kinnikinnick Foods, Inc. makes gluten-free, dairy-free animal cookies, called KinniKritters, that look and taste like animal crackers. They include a bighorn sheep, an elephant, a pig, a bison (maybe), a camel, and a horse.

Biscomerica Corp. makes Basil's Bavarian Bakery animal cookies, called Animal Snackers. They include a bear, camel, hippo, lion, and elephant.

In popular culture

A song sung by Shirley Temple, "Animal Crackers in My Soup", was used by many companies for advertising animal crackers.

An episode of "The Simpsons" called "Simpson Safari" featured the Simpsons winning an expired contest promoted by Animal Crackers.

In the 2007 film "Zodiac" Mark Ruffalo's character David Toschi often asks for animal crackers after being awakened in the early hours of the morning when new leads on the Zodiac Killer case are uncovered.

In 6th Season of ER (TV series) Carol Hathaway gets a huge box filled with Barnum's Animal Crackers as a birthday present from Doug Ross.

In the 1998 film "Armageddon" Ben Affleck's character does an Animal Cracker Discovery Channel thing to Liv Tyler's character, which can be found in the film's soundtrack.

The 1928 musical play "Animal Crackers" and its 1930 film adaptation "Animal Crackers" were early hits for the Marx Brothers.

In "Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)" Season two "What's My Line Part 2" there is a mention of animal crackers:Oz: “Oh look! Monkey. And he has a little hat…and little pants.”Willow: “Yeah, I see.”Oz: “The monkey’s the only cookie animal that gets to wears clothes. You know that? … You have the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen.”Oz: “So I’m wondering, do the other cookie animals feel sorta ripped? Like is the hippo going, “Hey, man. Where are my pants? I have my hippo dignity.” And you know the monkey’s just, “I mock you with my monkey pants!” And then there’s a big coup in the zoo.”Willow: “The monkey is French?”Oz: “All monkeys are French. You didn’t know that?”Willow: “No.”


*Stauffer Biscuit Company


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Look at other dictionaries:

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