About the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

Qualified By on May 28, 2014

It’s as essential to the Fourth of July as American flags waving, firemen in parades, watermelons, barbecues, and fireworks: The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island.

Every July 4, gurgitators from around the globe gather at the intersection of Surf and Stillwell, at the location of the original Nathan’s Famous, and go bun to bun in the ultimate eating competition.

Tens of thousands gather at Coney Island to watch each year and millions more watch at home. It’s an event like no other: even Lonely Planet named the contest as one of their 1000 Ultimate Experiences.

Will you be watching this Fourth of July in person or at home? Here’s your ultimate guide to everything you need to know about the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.



Currently, the hot dog eating contest is ten minutes long (changed from twelve minutes in 2008). It’s a timed challenge: contestants have ten minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they can. Both the hot dog and bun (HDB) need to be eaten. Dunking is allowed (meaning the contestants can submerge the hot dog, bun, or both into liquid before eating (a five-second rule will be in effect). The practice softens the bun and makes it easier to go down. You will see eaters with different liquids from plain ole water to hot tea to fruit punch.


Two contests?

Yes, there are two contests. Prior to 2011 everyone competed at the same time. In 2011, the hot dog eating contest separated the men from the women, literally. Now there are two hot dog eating contests on the Fourth of July: a men’s division and a women’s division.

Fun fact: Sometimes there is even a third contest…for kids! In a “neat eating contest” kids get to compete not to see who will eat the most but who can eat one hot dog while making the least mess.


Who competes?

There are two main ways to compete at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July Fourth. The best was is to win the contest! The previous year’s winners don’t have to re-qualify. Joey Chestnut and Sonya Thomas, who won the men’s and women’s hot dog eating contests on July 4, 2013, automatically get to defend their victory this year.

Other competitors have to qualify. This year, fourteen qualifiers are being held across the country. Each one is the same: you get ten minutes to eat as many hot dogs as you can. The top male and female competitor from each qualifying contest can go on to compete on the Fourth of July.

In addition to those eaters, there may be a few others. “Wildcards,” those who didn’t win a qualifier but lead all the competitors across the contests may be invited to compete. Others are also allowed to compete by special invitation. Celebrities and foreign contests have been given a bye in years past.

All contestants have to be 18 years of age and must be signed members with Major League Eating.

Click here for a complete list and bios of the competitors for the 2014 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.


Can you get disqualified?

Yes, contestants can get disqualified from the hot dog eating contest. How? By having a reversal of fortune, AKA puking. All HDBs (hot dogs and buns) have to be kept down. Dogs can also be deducted from the total if the competitor has left a lot of debris.


What do they win?

On the line is fame, money (last year it was $10,000 for the winner), and the prized Mustard Yellow Belt (or, the pink belt for the women).


How can I watch?

Visit our Where to Watch page for information on how to watch in person, on TV, or online plus tips on making the most of your experience.

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