HOGSHEAD, a cask for holding liquor or other commodities, such as tobacco, sugar, molasses, etc.; also a liquid measure of capacity, varying with the contents. As a measure for beer, cider, etc., it equals 54 gallons. A statute of Richard III. (1483) fixed the hogshead of wine at 63 wine-gallons, i.e. 525 imperial gallons. The etymology of the word has been much discussed. According to Skeat, the origin is to be found in the name for a cask or liquid measure appearing in various forms in several Teutonic languages, in Dutch oxhooft (modern okshoofd), Dan. oxehoved, 0. Swed. oxhufwd, etc. The word should therefore be " oxhead," and " hogshead " is a mere corruption. It has been suggested that the name arose from the branding of such a measure with the head of an ox (see Notes and Queries, series iv. 2, 46, note by H. Tiedeman). The New English Dictionary does not attempt any explanation of the term, and takes " hogshead " as the original form, from which the forms in other languages have been corrupted. The earlier Dutch forms hukeshovet and hoekshoot are nearer to the English form, and, further, the Dutch for " ox " is os.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)