Animal cookies were first produced in England, and shortly before the 20th Century they were introduced in America. Stauffers, the local bakery in York, introduced them in 1871. Other companies made similar versions.
Nabisco produced the circus train box and renamed their crackers Barnum’s Circus for the 1902 Christmas season, with the string designed to hang from the branches of the Christmas tree. The box then sold for 5 cents.
There will probably always be lions and tigers, bears and elephants, but the dog and jaguar have been replaced by the hyena and gorilla. Today each package contains 22 crackers with a variety of animals. The Koala is the newest addition, voted on by consumers, beating out the penguin, walrus and cobra. The Koala bear joined the 18 other animals in September 2002. I wasn’t aware of the voting because I think I would have thrown my support behind penguins.
There have been three limited edition animal crackers: the Endangered Animals box in 1995, the Chocolate Zoo in 1997 and the Marine Collection in 1998.
I searched for Christmas recipes that involve animal crackers, but, instead, came up with gingerbread, sugar, and other forms of the basic animal cracker recipe. Nabisco is doing just fine in that area–I imagine anything I bake from scratch would be poor imitations. What do you think?