Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Heriot Definition:

A right in ancient common law of a land lord, upon the death of his tenant, to pick any beast belonging to the estate of the deceased tenant.

Jowitt notes that the term and legal basis is derived from Norman French (heriet) and refers to a tool of warfare, usually a horse or such other farm beast:

Heriot ... the right of the lord of a manor to the best beast of the deceased tenant of a manor, which beats might be seized by the lord....”

Brown defines the ancient legal right of heriot as follows

Heriot: the best beast (whether a horse, ox or cow) which by custom of most manors is due to the lord upon the death of his ... tenant.”

Starting in 1841, various statutes of England gradually eliminated any claims by land-owners to heriots.


  • Brown, Archibald, A New Law Dictionary and Institute of the Whole Law for the Use of Students, the Legal Profession and the Public (London: Stevens & Sons, 1874), Page 176
  • Walsh, C., Jowitt’s Dictionary of English Law (London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1959), page 905
  • Western v Bailey [1897] 1 QB 86

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