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Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest
Photograph: Stephen Moran

12 facts you didn’t know about Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

There is so much more to know about the century-old Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest than you realize

Written by
Jennifer Picht

Champions come in all forms: Olympians, wrestlers, dancers. But to compete in Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest takes guts. Seriously, you need to have an iron stomach to guzzle heaps of wieners in 10 minutes! That’s why we wanted to share a few fun facts about the athletes—and the competition overall—so you can truly understand the heart, commitment and revelry that goes into one of the most exciting 4th of July events this summer. Head to one of the best Coney Island attractions to see world-renowned eaters duke it out before you secure a place to watch the 4th of July fireworks.

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Facts you didn’t know about Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest


The snazzy Mustard Yellow International Belt can only be worn by Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Champion, so consider the accessory the sport’s green jacket. However, the unknown age and value of the waist-cincher is only unveiled on July 4. Did we mention it’s bejeweled? There’s also an all-pink replica for the lady who wins the Women’s Hot Dog Eating World Champion.


Nathan’s Famous opened on Surf Avenue in 1916, which is also the year when the Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest was spawned.


In 1984, Birgit Felden was the first non-American and German-native to win the championship (clearly, she was no stranger to bratwurst).


Like any competitive sport, there is a technique for eating as many wieners you can stomach in 10 minutes. The most common? The “dunking” method. Contestants will dip their buns into water before shoving the hot dog in their piehole. Mmm, yummy.


Frank “Large” Dellarosa of Maspeth, Queens was the first contest to down over 21 hot dogs—er, 21 and a half—in 1991.
Photograph: Christian Kozowyk


In 2001, Takeru Kobayashi of Nagano, Japan set a new record for swallowing 50 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. Yow!


Kobayashi is also the first contest to invent the “Solomon” technique, where the world-renowned eater breaks the wiener in half, eats both halves at once and then eats the bun.


Sonya Thomas—also known as “The Black Widow”—became the first woman to eat more than 30 Franks in 2004.


In a brave attempt to beat Japan-native and champion Kobayashi, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut from San Jose, California guzzled 66 wieners during the match in 2007. The American hero brought the coveted Mustard Yellow Belt back to the USA.


In 2008, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition experienced it’s first tie! The showdown was held between undefeated champ Chestnut and returning champion Kobayashi. The two beasts battled in a five-dog eat-off, where Chestnut was victorious after gulping all of them in 50 seconds.


It wasn’t until 2011 that all the strong women with iron stomachs got their very own Women’s Championship due to the incredible growth of female competitors.


The infamous hot dog competition is organized by Major League Eating and the International Federation of Competitive Eating. The contest is so legit, ESPN signed on to broadcast the gut-busting mayhem live for several years to come.

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