Who doesn’t love animal crackers? Those little red boxes full of animal-shaped cookies have been an essential part of childhood for generations, but did you ever really stop to think about them?
These cute little cookies were first imported to the United States in the late 1800s, and by the turn of the century the market had been cornered by the National Biscuit Company, which still produces them today under their slightly modernized name, Nabisco. Several other companies sell animal crackers, including Austin Zoo, Cadbury (their variety is chocolate coated), Market Square, and Stauffers, but Nabisco’s are far and away the top seller.
Today, all Barnum’s animal crackers (which are officially called Barnum’s Animals Crackers) are produced at Nabisco’s Fair Lawn, New Jersey, bakery. They’re baked on a 300-foot-long traveling band oven at a rate of about 12,000 per minute; 300,000 cookies are baked in a single shift, and each box contains exactly 22 cookies. More than 40 million are sold each year in the United States and 17 foreign countries.
There are currently 17 animals represented in Barnum’s Animals Crackers: bear, bison, camel, cougar, elephant, giraffe, gorilla, hippopotamus, hyena, kangaroo, lion, monkey, rhinoceros, seal, sheep, tiger, and zebra. Here are five more things you might not have known about these legendary little cookies.