Who can imagine life without hot dogs? From hot dog stands at a show, to making your own at a summer barbecue, the humble sausage in a bun is a firm favourite throughout the world, across ages and cultures. Here’s a quick look at the origins of the hot dog, and a few fun facts.

Hot dog origins

As with the origins of so many popular foods, there's hot contention for the hot dog ‘inventor’ crown. Though the origins of the sausage can be traced back to Roman times, the popular version seems to have originated in Germany, before flourishing in America.

Leading the way in the hot dog origin claims is Frankfurt, in Germany. The word frankfurter was coined for pork and beef sausages. However, the Austrian capital Vienna also claims the title.

The hot dog started to gain prominence in America in the late 1800s. A German immigrant began selling sausages in rolls at Coney Island in New York in 1871. Another German immigrant, who owned a baseball team, is credited with starting off the ball park tradition a couple of years later. The famous hot dog cart soon exploded into popularity as the main food source at American baseball games.

Why are they called 'hot dogs'?

The most common theory of the origins of the term ‘hot dog’ is that the Germans actually called the frankfurter a ‘little dog’ or ‘dachshund sausage’. Hot dog then began as a joke about long, thin, dachshund dogs, which German immigrants brought with them to America, along with sausages. 

Vendors hawking the food at sporting games in New York may also have had a part to play. Cries of "get your red hot sausage" and "they're red hot" or "get your dachshund sausage" supposedly led to a New York Journal cartoonist drawing an image of a barking dachshund in a roll, which he termed a 'hot dog'.

The term also began to appear in college magazines in the 1890s, when 'dog wagons' (a sarcastic observation on the origins of the meat, according to the US National Hot Dog and Sausage Council) served as hot dog stands outside college dormitories.

Fun hot dog facts

All over the world from America to Australia, hot dogs have evolved from the simple frankfurter topped with mustard to quality sausages accompanied by different relishes and condiments.

While we love our hotdogs with tomato sauce and mustard, we also enjoy them topped with chilli con carne, sauerkraut, mayonnaise, pickles and, of course, cheese.

Famous Chicago-style hot dogs incorporate dill pickles, celery salt and fresh tomatoes, while Italian hot dogs in New Jersey typically come with capsicum, onions and potatoes. Baseball stadiums throughout the USA even have their own signature hot dogs, such as the Dodger Dogs and Fenway Franks.

World records

The humble hot dog is also the source of world records, from a person eating as many as they can in a certain amount of time, to making the longest, biggest, widest dog! The world's longest hot dog was created in Paraguay in July 2011, at the whopping length of 203.8 metres.

One thing's for sure, the popularity of the hot dog and the anticipation of visiting the hot dog cart at a show or event will continue long into the future, no matter where they originated!