Brake horsepower (BHP) is the measure of an engine's horsepower before the loss in power caused by the gearbox, alternator, differential, water pump, and other auxiliary components such as power steering pump, muffled exhaust system, etc. Brake refers to a device which was used to load an engine and hold it at a desired rotational speed. During testing, the output torque and rotational speed were measured to determine the brake horsepower. Horsepower was originally measured and calculated by use of the "indicator" (a James Watt invention of the late 18th century), and later by means of a De Prony brake connected to the engine's output shaft.
More recently, an engine dynamometer is used instead of a De Prony brake. Although the output delivered to the driving wheels is less than that obtainable at the engine's crankshaft, a chassis dynamometer gives an indication of an engine's "real world" horsepower after losses in the drive train and gearbox. This gives a reasonably accurate indication of how a wheeled vehicle engine will perform once on the road.