An English and later British unit of capacity, a quarter of a tun, = 63 wine gallons. After conversion to imperial measure in 1824, the hogshead became 52.5 imperial gallons, about 238.7 liters. See beer and ale for a chart showing its changes over time for those commodities. See wine barrel for a chart showing its changes in value and its relation to other wine measures. Abbr., “hhd.”.¹

In Ceylon, a law in force in 1900 fixed the hogshead at 63 gallons.

In addition to the legal value, the hogshead had various conventional commercial values, depending on the commodity.

  Mid 19ᵗʰ century
according to Waterston
20ᵗʰ century
beer 54 imperial gallons  
brandy 45–60 imp. gal.; some say 57 60 imp. gal.; 273 liters
claret 46 imp. gallons 46-49 imp. gal.; 209-225 liters
madeira, marsala 46 imp. gal.; 209 liters
port 58 imp. gal.; 264 liters
Scotch whisky 55–60 imp. gallons  56 imp. gal.; 255 liters
sherry 55 imp. gal.; 250 liters
sugar (West Indies) 1,456–1,792 pounds avoirdupois.  
tobacco 1,344–2,016 pounds avoirdupois.  
Hock, Rhine and
Moselle wine
30 gallons  

1. Nesbit (1869), page 276;



[Harrison begins by listing the English liquid capacity measures, beginning with the spoonful and ending with:]

The barrell 32. gallons. And these are [our] meare [that is, unmixed, unadulterated] English liquide measures. The rest [..] we have are outlandish vessels, and such as are brought over unto us wyth wares from other countreys. And yet are we not altogither guided by thys rate (the more pitye) but in some things severall measures are used and receyved, as for example.

The fyrkin of beare hath 9. gallons.

The kilderkin 18 gallons.

The barrel 36. As for the hogshead of [beere] it is lately come up, and because I see [none] made of this assize, but onely the empty caskes of wine reserved to thys use, I pass over to say any thing thereof. If it were according to the standard for beere, it should containe 72. gallons, which hath now but [...]4.

Unfortunately the first digit is obscure. It might be a 5, and 54 gallon beer hogshed is a value met with in the 16ᵗʰ century. If so, this would fit the reuse of wine casks as beer barrels, since 63 wine gallons is very nearly 52 beer gallons.

Harrison then describes the sizes of the eel, salmon and herring measures, omitted here, before passing on to:]

Of wine and such vessels as come to us from beyond the seas we have the ru[nd]let of 18. gallons and a pottle. [that is, 18½ gallons.]

The barell (whych is rare) of 3. gallons.

The hogshed of 63. gallons.

The tiers of 84 gallons.

The pipe or butte of 126. gallons.

The tunne of 252.

William Harrison.
An Historical description of the islande of Britayne, with a briefe rehearsall...
Book 3, chapter 24
Raphael Holinshed.
Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande. Volume I.
London: Iohn Hunne [1577].

This pasaage is extremely valuable, as it is one of the few first-person accounts extant on the impact of the wine trade on English fiuid measures. In Harrison's account the “meare” English measures (8, 16, 32 gallons) are all integral fractions of a now-forgotten tun of 256 gallons, while the foreign (e.g., wine) measures (3, 63, 84, 126) are integral fractions of a tunne of 252 gallons. Harrison is mistaken about the rundlet coming “from beyond the seas,” since at 18½ gallons it is clearly half a beer barrel, and belongs to the newly-arisen series of beer measures whose introduction he regrets.

Harrison describes the volume of the “meare” English capacities in terms of weights of water, measured in Troy weight. The gallon is 96 ounces or 8 pounds. Taking the pre-1588 English Troy pound at 373.01 grams, 8 Troy pounds of water would weigh 2.98 kg, thus occupy about 3 liters, or 183 cubic inches.


See these statutes: 1 Richard III, chapter 13, 2 Henry VI chapter 14


15228 Cubic inches, or 8 4/5 cube feet, in one hogshead of beer measure in London, containing 54 gallons.
13536 Cube inches, or 7 5/6 cube feet, in one hogshead of ale measure in London, containing 48 gals.
14382 Cube inches, or 8 2/6 cube feet, in one hogshead of beer and ale measure in the country, containing 51 gallons.
14553 Cube inches, or 8 2/5 cube feet, in one hogshead of wine measure, containing 63 gallons.

E[dward] Hoppus.
Hoppus's Tables for Measuring, or Practical Measuring Made Easy, by a New Set of Tables... A New Edition.
London: Printed for Longman and Co., etc., 1837.


In South Africa, a unit of liquid capacity for wine, about 65 imperial gallons, about 295 liters. Formerly = 8 ankers.



The variation in the size of the hogsheads [63 to 72 imperial gallons] is owing to the importation of casks about this size, from different countries, which are retained when empty, instead of being returned.

Alfred J. Martin.
Up-to-date Tables of Imperial, Metric, Indian and Colonial Weights and Measures…
London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1904.
Page 67.


In Australia, a unit of liquid capacity for wine, about 65 imperial gallons, about 295 liters.

Sorry. No information on contributors is available for this page.

home | units index  | search |  contact drawing of envelope |  contributors | 
help | privacy | terms of use