Gunny sack

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A gunny sack, made from hemp

A gunny sack, also known as a gunny shoe or tow sack, is an inexpensive bag, historically made of hessian (burlap) formed from jute, hemp, or other natural fibers. Modern sacks are often made from man-made products such as polypropylene.

The word gunny, meaning coarse fabric, derives from an Indo-Aryan language.[1] Reusable gunny sacks, typically holding about 50 kg, were traditionally, and to some extent still are, used for transporting grains, potatoes and other agricultural products. These are widely seen in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. In Australia, these sacks, made of Indian jute, were known traditionally as 'hessian sacks', 'hessian bags' or 'sugar bags'.[2]

Today they are also sometimes used as sandbags for erosion control. Gunny sacks are also popular in the traditional children's game of sack racing.


A gunny sack holds approximately 50 kg (110 lb) of potatoes. Even though gunny sacks are no longer used for that purpose, among Idaho farmers the common measurement unit of potatoes is still the "sack".[3]

Behind him, thousands of bags are stacked in rows.
Coffee bags, Ethiopia

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Cultural references[edit]


  1. ^ "gunnysack". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  2. ^ Hassam, Andrew (2011). "Indian Jute in Australian Museum Collections: Forgetting and Recollecting Transnational Networks". Public History Review. UTSePress. Vol 18 (2011): 108–128.
  3. ^ South, David B. "Protect Your Potatoes". Accessed 2015-06-10.