No food quite says “summer” like the humble hot dog. Perhaps that’s why July is National Hot Dog Month!

Although no one knows for sure how hot dogs came to be such a popular symbol of summer, we can make a good guess at how they became related to Fourth of July celebrations. If you believe a popular New York legend, four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand on Coney Island on July 4, 1916.

The hot dog eating contest was supposed to settle an argument about which of the immigrants was the most patriotic. Since 1916, Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island has been the site of a hot dog eating contest nearly every year on July 4.

Today, the annual Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest is the world’s most famous hot dog eating contest. It has also become an Independence Day tradition for many. Last year, more than 40,000 people came to Coney Island to watch the contest, which was also broadcast live on ESPN!

During the contest, 20 people compete to see who can eat the most hot dogs (with buns!) in just 10 minutes. The wiener… oops, we mean winner — in addition to bragging rights and maybe indigestion — gets to wear a special jeweled mustard-yellow belt.

Joey Chestnut of San Jose, California, holds the world record for hot dog eating. On July 4, 2009, he ate 68 hot dogs (and buns!) in 10 minutes. He will seek his fifth straight title in this year’s contest.

Could you eat 68 hot dogs in just 10 minutes? That’s an incredible world record. What’s even more incredible is how many hot dogs Americans eat year-round.

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans eat more than 20 billion hot dogs every year. More than 155 million hot dogs will be eaten during the Fourth of July weekend alone!

Do you do your part? The Council estimates each American eats 60 hot dogs every year on average.

What is your favorite hot dog add-on? For adults, the choice is mustard, while kids tend to prefer ketchup.

If you’re wondering exactly how the name “hot dog” came about, people believe sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan came up with the name. At a 1901 baseball game, a new food — hot dachshund sausages in buns — were being sold.

Dorgan heard people yelling, “Get your dachshund sausages while they’re hot!” He drew a cartoon of the scene. Because he wasn’t sure how to spell “dachshund,” he just called them “hot dogs.” And the rest, as they say, is history.


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    • We think they’re AWESOME too, “Wonder!” How many do you think you could eat in 10 minutes? We think it would be FUN to be a part of that contest! :-)

    • Some Wonder Friends like to do WONDERfully FUN things like compete in hot dog eating competitions, Manupenguin! We think it would be interesting to try that at least once in our lives! We’re not sure we would win, but we would definitely give it our best try! :-)

    • That’s a LOT of hot dogs, “Wonder!” We think we would like to be a contestant in a food-eating contest (maybe just once)! :-)

  1. I don’t like hot dogs, they’re gross because they are made up of left over cow and chicken thrown and smashed together. Eww.

    • Thanks for sharing how you feel about hot dogs, Devan! We think it makes the world much more WONDERful that we all like (and don’t care for) different things! :-)

    • YAY, our Wonder was hot-diggity-dog WONDERful for you, Kittensrcute! We’re glad you enjoyed WONDERing about those delicious dogs! :)

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend! We think so, too! We’re happy to know that you’ve been WONDERing about hot dogs (and hot dog contents) today! :)

    • That sounds good, Youssouf! While we don’t think you will be competing with champion hot dog eaters, we bet your tummy won’t hurt after you finish eating those hot dogs! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

    • Thanks so much, Kate! We Wonder if you have ever tried to break a world record like the contestants who participate in hot dog eating contests? :)

    • Hi, Joshua! You’re right… occasionally people do die during the contest. Our bodies are not used to eating that fast and that large of quantity. People in hot dog contests actually have to train for these occasions. Thanks for commenting! :)

  2. I used to love Hot dogs, i used to eat them every day, but once i found out what there made of, i changed my mind. I still eat them, but only during an occasion or something, I don’t really care for Hot dogs. There okay but… yeah.

  3. At our school we have hot dogs as a choice for lunch today.I wonder if our class is going to have a contest during lunch with the extra food.Personally I Love hot dogs and I wonder what is inside a hot dog.I have also heard that some MLE champions can unhinge their jaws is that true?

  4. I used to not like hot dogs before my parents made me try one and I just couldn’t stop eating them they were so gooooooooooood.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How many hot dogs can you eat in 10 minutes?
  • Who holds the world record for eating hot dogs?
  • Where did the name “hot dog” come from?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Major League Eating is an organization that oversees all sorts of competitive eating contests. In addition to making sure that contests are judged professionally, they also make sure that appropriate safety standards are used at events.

Wonder what some of the other interesting food-related world records are? Check out the Major League Eating Records to find out who holds the world records for eating the following foods:

  • Asparagus
  • Birthday cake
  • Catfish
  • Cow brains
  • Meatballs


Still Wondering

Check out ReadWriteThink’s Myth and Truth: Independence Day lesson to learn more about the dates and stories associated with the Declaration of Independence and why we celebrate the nation’s birthday on July 4.


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