4.3. Implementing equals() and hashCode()

You have to override the equals() and hashCode() methods if you
  • intend to put instances of persistent classes in a Set (the recommended way to represent many-valued associations) and
  • intend to use reattachment of detached instances
Hibernate guarantees equivalence of persistent identity (database row) and Java identity only inside a particular session scope. So as soon as we mix instances retrieved in different sessions, we must implement equals() and hashCode() if we wish to have meaningful semantics for Set s.
The most obvious way is to implement equals()/hashCode() by comparing the identifier value of both objects. If the value is the same, both must be the same database row, they are therefore equal (if both are added to a Set, we will only have one element in the Set). Unfortunately, we can't use that approach with generated identifiers! Hibernate will only assign identifier values to objects that are persistent, a newly created instance will not have any identifier value! Furthermore, if an instance is unsaved and currently in a Set, saving it will assign an identifier value to the object. If equals() and hashCode() are based on the identifier value, the hash code would change, breaking the contract of the Set. See the Hibernate website for a full discussion of this problem. Note that this is not a Hibernate issue, but normal Java semantics of object identity and equality.
We recommend implementing equals() and hashCode() using Business key equality. Business key equality means that the equals() method compares only the properties that form the business key, a key that would identify our instance in the real world (a natural candidate key):
public class Cat {

    ...
    public boolean equals(Object other) {
        if (this == other) return true;
        if ( !(other instanceof Cat) ) return false;

        final Cat cat = (Cat) other;

        if ( !cat.getLitterId().equals( getLitterId() ) ) return false;
        if ( !cat.getMother().equals( getMother() ) ) return false;

        return true;
    }

    public int hashCode() {
        int result;
        result = getMother().hashCode();
        result = 29 * result + getLitterId();
        return result;
    }

}
Note that a business key does not have to be as solid as a database primary key candidate (see Section 11.1.3, “Considering object identity”). Immutable or unique properties are usually good candidates for a business key.