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Doing the Math: How many kids are at Hogwarts?

by David Haber

On October 16, 2000, in an interview, J.K. Rowling was asked, "How many students attend Hogwarts, and how many students per year per house?" and she replied, simply, "There are about a thousand students at Hogwarts." And because she said it, this has persisted as the proper answer accepted by most fans. But I don't see how that could be correct.

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Reader Comments: (Page 15)

Like I said above, I don't think ther can be a 1000 students at Hogwarts. There may be more students in other houses and years, but I'm convinced ther were only five boys in Gryffindor in Harry's year.

I don't think they were sharing cauldrons in potions. The only instance in which they were said to shared was the first lesson in SS/PS. Also, it was said that there were 20 broomsticks on the ground for the Gryffindors' and Slytherin's first fling lessons. I don't think they were planning to share broomsticks.

Someone made a very good point above about waiting for the hat to sort everyone. I would guess students could only wait for 60 students at the most to be sorted each year.

Posted by Anonymous from Arizona on August 12, 2008 5:37 PM

I did the same counting, David, and came to the same result than you. However, both theories have their arguments:

- around 1000 students at Hogwarts, because of those descriptions of scenes in the wizarding world (Quidditch World Cup, MoM). If there are so many wizards administrating the British wizarding world at the ministry, it seems likely that there must be a whole lot more working elsewhere.

As a few of you already wrote: we only read about characters and places, which are relevant to the story itself. Besides Diagon Alley, there could be a few more places for shopping - by the way, as food cannot be produced out of thin air, Mrs Weasley and the Hogwarts elfes must buy some somewhere, don't they?

Also, Hermione is taking lessons Harry and Ron don't (Arithmancy, Ancient Runes).That suggests, that there are surely more even more topics to choose from. Harry's schoolmates may have chosen different time tables... I always wondered, why they do not have lessons such as foreign languages (i.e. Mermish..., but even French or Spanish - the Beauxbatons students do speak English! - Dumbledore and Barty Crouch sr spoke a great number of forein languages), as well as music and sports. Well, these lessons were probably proposed at Hogwarts, but simply not chosen by our protagonists. OK, OK, I know should have opened "Hogwarts - a History" at least once, before writing! Surely, everything is in there...

Now, on the other hand:
- around 300 students at Hogwarts, because they all travel by Hogwarts Express, don't they? (that's my best argument here...!)
And then, the first years take small boats, each for 4 passengers, I think. With around 40 first years, that means 10 boats - imagine with 100 - 150 first years = 25 - 35 boats?

Also, Diagon Alley seems to be rather small - how could thousands of wizards fit into it? Another undetectable extension charm? But, it must be an important place to the British wizards, as Ollivander - the best wandmaker - has his shop here and the Weasley brothers open their joke shop right here.

JK writes about only a few villages known to accommodate wizarding families: Hogsmeade, Tinworth, Ottery St Catchpole, Godric's Hollow and some place in Yorkshire (I don't recall). With the London community, it seems likely, that there are not that many wizards in Britain.
Also, remember that port key for the World Cup on the hill near Ottery - Mr Diggory talks about not more than 4 families for that spot.

The impression, Harry had at the Quidditch World Cup could come from the fact, that he had never been to such an event with the Dursleys. Having grown up in Little Whinging, a gathering of a few thousands must seem to him simply huge. And those wizards were coming from all over the world.

In any case, I cannot convince myself in believing that there would be other wizarding schools in Britain. The students with wizarding capabilities are detected at their birth and receive their letter at the age of 11 - that always sounds like some magical link between wizards and Hogwarts.

I rather think that wizards are greatly related to their kind abroad. We get a few glimpses on those foreign wizards: from Africa infront of their tents at the World Cup, the Irish and the Bulgarians and all those other teams who did not reach the final. Later in the books, that passage about the pen friend of one of Ron's brothers who is in South America and then the one where Dumbledore in his youth planned to travel around the world.

As the Quidditch world cup has not taken place in Britain since 30 years, it was logically elsewhere - in one of the many countries where wizards live. Even with a few thousands per country, that makes a numerous crowd all together on the occasion of a sports event.

Well, there is no conclusion, as only JK knows for sure - or not. But it is nice to speculate about it...

Posted by Chris from Côte d'Azur on September 5, 2008 12:23 PM

Chris made some good points, but I think that at least up to third year, there are only twelve subjects offered at Hogwarts: Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, Astronomy, History of Magic, and Herbology, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures, and Muggle Stus. Hermione is said to have signed up for every subject in her third year and she only did these twelve. Flying lessons do not seem to be official, whole year lessons, so I don't think they are included. There might be other subjects offered in higher years, but I don't think so because it is never mentioned at all that students learn music or different languages. I think Rowling would have put that in the books if she had intended it. Maybe there were clubs for these types of activities, like the Gobstones club. This makes me think that Harry interacted with every Gryffindor in his year, so there can not be 1000 students at Hogwarts.

Posted by Anonymous from Arizona on September 5, 2008 3:49 PM

That is convincing, Anonymous. I did not recall that Hermione signed up for EVERY subject...

I suggest, JK Rowling should give us access to "Hogwarts - A History". According to Hermione, it holds so many explanations about the wizarding world in general and Hogwarts in particular, that it would be quite thrilling to read it and increase our knowledge.

Thank you, Dave, for this website. I am not feeling so lonely anymore with my repeated reading of the books and brooding over subjects such as those you write about here. How very entertaining!
Best regards to all fellow HP fans.

Posted by Chris from Côte d'Azur on September 6, 2008 02:18 AM

I think everyone's comments are well reasoned and valid. It is difficult for any author of a fictional universe to be 100% consistent. JKR gives us glimpses and hints but it is the story that takes priority rather than the quantitative details.

One limitation that comes to mind is the demographics of the Potterverse. Assumptions of the marriage patterns, birth rate and family size in the wizarding world are difficult. Extrapolating muggle demographics into the Potterverse is probably not valid. The British wizarding community as described by JKR has a different demographic profile. First, there seems to be a large number of unmarried adults in the wizarding world. The Hogwarts staff, many Ministry workers and many wizards we meet do not have their own families. Therefore, the wizard birth rate would probably be much lower than the muggle rate. Complicating an estimate of the wizard birth rate is the addition of muggle born wizards (such as Hermione and Lily) to the wizarding population. Although a minority, we don't know what percentage of wizards are muggle born.

Wizards and witches live longer lives than muggles, the estimate of 100 years life expectancy is probably about right. This would result in a much higher average age and increase the living population.

JKR also describes the diminishing opportunities for pure blood marriages. The Weasleys seem to be the only productive pure blood family left. The Blacks are fading out (Scorpius and Teddy are the only Black descendants of their generation). If it weren't for half-blood and muggle born children, the wizarding population would become extinct.

As JKR writes in the books, Hogwarts has been running for 1000 years and has (for at least a century or two) been at a near constant enrollment. There are no new dormitories, facilities or other signs of growth. There are also no signs that the school is larger than it needs to be for current enrollment. Of course magic could be used to periodically reorder the castle to be "just right" for the current enrollment. This would imply that the population of wizards as a whole is about the same over time.

Our view of the Hogwarts world is mostly from the Gryffindor POV and my impression from the books' description of the common room is that a house larger than 70 students seems unlikely. There is only one fireplace and one small entrance. The Trio often find themselves alone even at reasonable hours. This may just be a literary inconsistency so the Trio can do the mischief required for the plot.

Posted by Jim from New Jersey, USA on September 17, 2008 2:09 PM

Double potions does not mean that two classes have a class together. It means it is like two class periods - like if a regular class was an hour long, than double potions would be two hours long.

Posted by Christina<3 from CA on September 21, 2008 06:56 AM

I watched the other day the Order of the Phoenix. It was the scene for the charms exam in the great hall. By my reconing they wer 4 rows of desks with 15-20 in each row = 60 - 80 kids in the 5th year. times this by 7 years makes 420 - 560 in the school as a whole. any one agree?

Posted by WestieMad from United Kingdom on October 13, 2008 08:58 AM

O.K. - maybe Harry dosen't meet all of the kids in his year. And,what about Enlargement Charms? As in HUGE Gryffondor common room, if need be. Also, I think "Double Potins" means two class periods. And even if 36 kids (and cauldrons) couldn't fit onto the Potins room, it says somewhere (I can't remember where) that in 1st and 2nd years, at least, people share cauldrons. As the years progress, classes get smaller on account of people failing the sublect in their previous year (and quitting [Hermione and Divination], being thrown out [can't you imagine Snape expelling someone for blowing up his robes of something like that?] and just not signing up for it [Neville and Charms]).

And yes, WestieMad, I sort of aggree on that except that the movies are not always completely accurate.

Posted by ithil from tx on October 18, 2008 2:36 PM

Thanks ithill. Just one more thing to add though, just begun re-reading Goblet of Fire. Harry is waiting to go up to the school in one of the coaches. The line reads "A hundred horse-less carriages stood waiting for them outside the station". Assumming 4 per carriage = 400 for years 2 to 7 and how ever many going on the boats across the lake. I agree about the Enlargement Charm

Posted by WestieMad on October 19, 2008 07:29 AM

Your math is definitely consistent, but I go with anything Jo says, as she knows better than anyone else about Harry Potter, seeing as she made it up. If Jo says it's true, than it must be.
And also, we all know from experience that many details about the movies are not consistent with the books.
And as for know one knowing of other Gryffindors ever being mentioned, it's probably because it was not needed. All the characters we know of were important to the plot or a sub-plot at some point. (Seamus shunning Harry&Dumbledore in 5, Neville has been important numerous times, Dean being a muggleborn on the run in 7, the Patil twins being Harry&Ron's Yule ball dates in 4, etc.) Just because they're not mentioned, it doesn't mean they don't exist. Lots of muggle schools are big enough that you may or may not know everyone in your grade.
But on the other hand, there are clues to there only being Neville, Harry, Dean, Seamus, and Ron in the boy's dormitory, like "five four-poster beds". Someone in a previous comment mentioned that there may be fewer people in Gryffindor than others because bravery and chivalry are somewhat hard to come by these days, as people of slyness and wit are not necessarily hard to come by. Also, this person mentioned, more people probably end up in Huffelpuff than anywhere else, because of Helga Hufflepuff's view on teaching, that everyone magical deserves it, while the other's looked for specific qualities.
However, I think we should just go with what Jo says. It may not line up with every single detail in the books, but I'm sure it was hard enough to line up everything that does. She's only human, after all. What matters is that's way she imagines it, and she's the creator.


Posted by Holly R. from Farmington, NH on October 19, 2008 2:28 PM

at my school to say double (as in "double potions") means a two periods of it in a row at once. i dont think it has anything to do with the fact they have it with the slytherins.

Posted by Kerri from Scotland on October 21, 2008 04:49 AM

I totally agree that according to the clues given in the books there are 280 students at hogwarts but in the 5th book(ootp) in harry's first term they have double defence against the dark arts and jk mentions that 30 pairs of eyes were staring at Harry. How can that be possible?

Posted by Apoorva from India on October 29, 2008 01:42 AM

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