Glycoproteins have become increasingly important in the structure and function of many different mammalian systems; for example, membrane glycoproteins and glycoprotein hormones. It is, therefore, important to understand their chemistry, which would include an understanding of both the carbohydrate and protein parts of the molecule. Since the chemical characterization of the protein moiety has been extensively examined and the techniques for its characterization are well worked out, only the carbohydrate portion of glycoproteins will be reviewed in this article. The chemical nature of the carbohydrate moiety of glycoproteins will be examined. First, the types of monosaccharides present in animal systems, especially those in the mammalian systems, will be described. Next, various types of simple and complex carbohydrate chains will be discussed to establish the diversity, size, and number of chains present in the carbohydrate units in different glycoproteins. Then, the type of linkages of the carbohydrate to the protein will be examined to determine if the primary sequence of protein is important in determining the size and type of carbohydrate chains present in glycoproteins. Finally, the current methods of structural elucidation such as monosaccharide sequence, intersugar bonds, and anomeric linkages in the carbohydrate moiety of glycoproteins will be reviewed. These methods include the techniques of periodate oxidation, methylation, partial acid hydrolysis, and specific glycosidase digestion of glycoproteins, as well as the latest techniques using micromethods of carbohydrate quantitation and characterization involving gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. The function of the carbohydrate in glycoproteins will also be considered. First, hormone glycoproteins will be discussed in their relationship to the immunological and biological function of the glycoprotein when the carbohydrate is sequentially removed. Next, the function of the carbohydrate in the turnover of glycoproteins will be discussed. These topics will be considered in order to develop an understanding of a specific function(s) of the carbohydrate in glycoproteins.