Animal Crackers, Ranked by Shape

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Here are three things you might not know about everybody's favorite fauna-themed packed-lunch staple:

1. Barnum's, the Nabisco-owned brand you most likely associate with animal crackers due to the delightful circus-wagon packaging, are technically named Barnum's Animals Crackers. Now that you know this, you are legally required to refer to them as animals crackers. (Even though, let's face it, animals crackers should really be called animals cookies. How are they crackers? There is nothing cracker-esque about them! This is madness! Let's move on)

2. In August of 2018, following a longtime push from PETA, the eponymous animals on the front of the box are no longer depicted in cages. Instead, they're shown roaming free in a slightly off putting row, looking pretty much like they are the new hosts of Netflix's Queer Eye for the Straight Fauna. It's fabulous. It's ethical. And it's a solid reminder that the circus isn't exactly the best place for an animal to live, despite what traditional snack packaging would have you believe. 

3. While all animals crackers are noble beasts, some animals are decidedly more noble than others. For instance, compare a stately lion with this goofy-ass llama. This logic (loosely) applies to animals crackers, too. 

Since No. 1 is fairly self-explanatory and we have an entire article about No. 2, let's focus on No. 3. Using the Barnum's variety (sorry, Stauffer's and Austin brands), I took it upon myself to rank the many whimsical shapes found in the package by applying highly scientific, totally cutthroat, and entirely objective reasoning. All to celebrate the "release" of the cover stars. 

There's a veritable circus in my mouth, and all of you are invited to step right up and witness the greatest show on Earth.

barnums animal crackers kangaroo
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17. The kangaroo

While I value the noble kangaroo's inherent value as one of God's creatures, this rendering makes the feisty pouch-haver look like a headless rabbit with a xylophone tucked between its legs. Bad form. Kangaroo Jack is not impressed.

Barnums animal crackers seal
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16. The seal

Somehow, this amorphous, splotchy blob is supposed to be a seal -- the only primarily aquatic animal in Barnum's harem. Honestly, it looks more like the "Kissed by a Rose" crooner than the playful animal.  Which is only thing that saved the noble seal from being dead last, because that song is still a banger.

barnums animal crackers bear
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15. The bear

This noble "bear" loses points by being abhorrently nondescript. It took me a long time to figure out which shape the bear even was, and I'm not even 100% sure this is a bear. And what is that square-shaped sack hanging between its legs? Do bears have that? Because they did not cover that in Planet Earth. There's a lot going on here -- yet, nothing going on here, simultaneously. It's not what you want.

barnums animal crackers gorilla
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14. The gorilla

I have to respect Barnum's ambition with the pose his noble gorilla's making, instead of opting for the classic "gorilla on all fours" silhouette. The upright position not only shows (proves?) the gorilla's place on our evolutionary timeline, it creates a distinction from most of the other crackers. Unfortunately, this looks like an intoxicated Picasso's quick-take on the (normally great) ape. Which is to say, it's all messed up and full of awkward angles. Nice for art. Bad for cookies. 

barnums animal crackers hippo
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13. The hippopotamus

Another animal given a bizarre flap of cookie-skin between its legs -- and this one is even more extreme. All in all, the noble hippo doesn't look horrible; there's a vague hippo-ishness about it. But it looks more like an incredibly anguished pig than a so-called water horse.

barnums animal crackers camel
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12. The camel

Sure, this could pass as a noble camel. But, it could also pass as an old, deflated football your little brother left out in the rain for 15 years. Still, to combine my two favorite diva-fronted songs, you gotta give those humps some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

barnums animal crackers bison
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11. The bison

This shape of the noble bison is instantly recognizable, which gives it major points in this ranking. But what's that awkwardly massive gash in its side? Is this a subtle reference to -- and referendum on -- on the noble beasts' widespread slaughter in the 19th century American frontier? Or is it just a production flub? We may never know. And that's probably OK.

barnums animal crackers koala
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10. The koala

Points for complexity with this one, as our smiley Australian friend seems to be hugging the trunk of a eucalyptus tree. But mostly, the noble koala is just creepy as fuck.

barnums animal crackers rhino
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9. The rhinoceros 

I like the very inclusion of the noble rhino, as well as the overall structure of the design. But... is that a dick? I think it's a dick. Overall, it takes away from the inclusivity of the list, at large. What about female rhinos? And lest we forget Animal(s) Crackers' main consumers are children. This doesn't fly in 2017.

barnums animal cracker tiger
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8. The tiger

For some reason, Barnum's made a perfectly good facsimile of the noble tiger, but then forgot to add its head. Bold move. Not sure it paid off, though.

barnums animal crackers sheep
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7. The sheep

The noble sheep is certainly the most domestic (and, by extension, boring) animal on this list. But its cracker-representation is surprisingly intricate. Just look at the detail on that wool! Baa!

barnums animal crackers cougar
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6. The cougar

One might ask, "Why, with the inclusion of other big cats, like tigers and lions, is the noble cougar necessary?" Well, for starters, this cougar has a pair of extremely visible gills. Not totally accurate to nature, but cool nevertheless. 

barnums animal crackers elephant
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5. The elephant 

The noble elephant is -- as you can see -- just another vaguely recognizable, amorphous animal blob. But! It is the only shape in the Barnum's animal spectrum given a gap between its legs, giving this cracker-cookie major originality points. Also, the space between makes for better bitin'.

barnums animal crackers giraffe
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4. The giraffe

The noble giraffe is definitely one of the most distinctive, fully realized shapes in the box. It has a cool pose, and actually looks like a giraffe. But there are a couple problems: first and foremost, the giraffe's head kind of dissolves into nothingness -- which fortunately, does not happen at most zoos. Secondly -- and this is HUGE -- giraffes are anatomically incapable of lowering their heads to the ground. In fact, when they need water, they bend their legs almost entirely to reach it. Luckily, the cracker is pretty, so we can let this error slide. But we can't put it in our top three.

barnums animals crackers monkey
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3. The monkey

Someone at Barnum's went totally off the rails, and put the noble monkey in the classic "thinker" pose. I love this, because I've always wondered what monkeys think about.

barnums animal crackers zebra
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2. The zebra

Though this zebra's stripes look alarmingly deep, you have to appreciate the artistic ambition behind this cracker: not only is the noble zebra represented well, but you also have the inclusion of its natural environment (Africa's tall grazing grass) between its legs. This is admittedly better than an awkward square pouch, and gives the whole operation a new sense of depth (both conceptually, and visually).

barnums animal crackers lion
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

1. The lion

Of course, numero uno is the noble lion, aka the king of the jungle (although not really, as they don't live in the jungle) aka the king of our hearts aka the mane man. Why does the noblest of all animals (and animals-crackers shapes) reign supreme? It has a streamlined and instantly recognizable design, and it actually has a head.

I suppose this cracker lion doesn't do anything exceptionally well, except for being totally satisfactory in almost every way. But in the end, isn't that what we want from our crackers, and ourselves? Consider the noble lion: the world's greatest animals cracker.

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He is noble, too. Follow him @wilfulton.