Laboratory methods allowing the detection and characterization of hemoglobin variants are reviewed. Protein chemistry techniques such as isoelectrofocusing, electrophoreses under various experimental conditions, cation exchange and reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography, are the most frequently used for the detection of variants. When associated with a few additional data they may lead to a presumptive diagnosis. DNA studies are also developed in many laboratories. Final identification of a variant may be achieved either by molecular biology techniques or by protein sequence analysis in which mass spectrometry now occupies a key position.