HERIOT is a feudal service consisting in a chattel which is given to the lord on the death of a tenant, and in some places upon alienation by a tenant. It is stated to have originated in a voluntary gift made by the dying tenant to his lord and chieftain of his horse and armour. This payment was first usual, then compulsory ; and at an early period we find the antieut military gift sinking into the render of the best animal (at the election of the lord) possessed by the tenant, and sometimes a dead chattel, or a money commutation.
Heriots are either heriots-custom or heriots-service. Where a heriot is due from the dying tenant by reason of his filling the character or relation of tenant within a particular seigniory, honour, manor, or other district, in which it has been usual from time immemorial to make such renders upon death or alienation, it is called : is a heriot due in respect of the estate of the tenant in the particular land held by him.
For heriot-custom the lord cannot dis train, but he may seize the animal which he claims as heriot : for heriot-service the lord may either seize or distrain.
Heriot-custoin formerly prevailed very extensively in freehold lands, but is now more commonly found in lands of cus tomary tenure, whether copyholds,—the conventionary estates in Cornwall, held under the duke of Cornwall,—the cus tomary estates called customary freeholds in the northern border counties,— or lands in ancient demesne.
Heriots were known in England before the complete development of the feudal system which followed upon the Norman conquest. The Normans introduced re liefs without abolishing the analogous heriot. The heregeate (heriot) is men tioned and fixed by the laws of Canute, 67, &c. The Dano-Saxon " heregeat " is derived by Spelman, and after him by Wilkins, from herge (more properly here), army. A more probable derivation would be from the word " herr," lord. In Scot land, where the render upon the death of the tenant is a pecuniary payment, it is called "lord's money," " hergeld," or herrezeld."