You must override hashCode() in every class that overrides equals(). Failure to do so will result in a violation of the general contract for Object.hashCode(), which will prevent your class from functioning properly in conjunction with all hash-based collections, including HashMap, HashSet, and Hashtable.
- from Effective Java, by Joshua Bloch
By defining equals() and hashCode(), you can improve the usability of your classes as keys in hash-based collections. As the API doc for hashCode explains: "This method is supported for the benefit of hashtables such as those provided by java.util.Hashtable."