We studied changes in dormancy (as imposed by the different structures surrounding the embryo, namely, endosperm, pericarp and glumellae) and its relationship with changes in embryonic ABA levels and sensitivity, in developing grains of two commercial barley cultivars: B 1215 and Quilmes Palomar, which have, respectively, a low and high dormancy level at harvest and, consequently, a contrasting sprouting behaviour in rainy years. Dormancy imposed by endosperm plus pericarp was gradually and similarly alleviated throughout development in both cultivars. The presence of the hull (glumellae), in contrast, completely inhibited germination of grains from both cultivars until physiological maturity (PM). From there on, hull-imposed dormancy was removed abruptly in B 1215 grains, while in Q. Palomar ones, it was removed at a much lower rate. This difference determined the contrasting sprouting behaviour of these two cultivars within the ‘time window’ going from PM to crop harvest. Embryonic ABA content and sensitivity were similar in the two cultivars throughout development until PM. From there on, ABA content and sensitivity in B 1215 embryos declined dramatically coinciding with the abrupt termination of hull-imposed dormancy observed in this cultivar. In contrast, ABA levels in Q. Palomar embryos remained high for longer and sensitivity to ABA declined at a much slower rate. This correlation suggests that hull-imposed dormancy in barley might be regulated by embryonic ABA levels and / or sensitivity. Inhibition of GA synthesis with paclobutrazol applied after anthesis lowered the germination capacity of grains from both cultivars without altering that of the naked caryopses, thus further suggesting that hull-imposed dormancy is under hormonal control.