What Are The Official Rules Of The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest?

Having grown up in Coney Island, we stood by the boardwalk every summer to witness Nathan's Famous 4th of July hot dog eating contest and rooted for competitive eaters like Takeru Kobayashi, Joey Chestnut, and  Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas as they scarfed down hot dog after hot dog. According to Nathan's Famous, "Legend has it that on July 4, 1916, four immigrants gathered at the very first Nathan's Famous hot dog stand in Coney Island ... they were competing to see who was the most patriotic." To crown a winner, they ran a hot dog eating contest. This, of course, was an embellished tall tale, and the truth was, as The New York Times reported, the legend and the contest were all part of a successful and clever marketing campaign for Nathan's Famous that started in the early 1970s. 

Since then, per Nathan's Famous, about 40,000 fans from around the globe gather to watch the contest live every year, and the contest's rules have not changed. For starters, contestants must be 18 or older to compete. They have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs and buns as they can, by hand and sans utensils. If anyone vomits, they are immediately disqualified. Condiments are not allowed, and contestants may drink anything non-alcoholic during the contest. You're allowed to dip your buns into water to help them go down more easily The winner is the contestant who eats the most hot dogs and buns within 10 minutes.

While men and women compete in different divisions, they share the same prizes

Now, what happens when there's a tie at the end of the 10 minutes? In that case, the contestants who have tied would compete in a tie breaker where whoever eats five hot dogs the fastest would win. 

For many years, men and women would compete together during Nathan's Famous 4th of July hot dog eating contest; however, beginning in 2011, women competed in their own division, in the morning, with little hoopla or fanfare when compared to the men's division, which is the main event. Despite having different divisions, women and men follow the same rules during the contest, and receive the same amount when it comes to the monetary prizes. The champions from the separate divisions each win $10,000 in prize money and a mustard belt. The woman champion wins a pink version of the belt. 

Additionally, runners-up from both divisions split a money pool of $20,000. Massively televised, fun to watch, professionally judged, and complete with a set of official rules, albeit messy and excessive, Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest has become the gold-standard in the world of competitive eating. If all this hot dog hype has you craving one, check out our best hot dog chili recipe and these 12 tips you need when cooking hot dogs.