by Zoë Pollock
Apparently Tibetan monks first used a form of yodeling to communicate. Marco Polo brought that knowledge back with him to Western Europe, where it quickly became part of the alpine tradition. The American cowboy yodeling tradition — yippee-kay-yay, y’all! — came about because European immigrants brought the vocal style with them to the range. The cowboy yodeling patterns aren’t as varied as the European traditions. They tend to be slower and simpler, since they were primarily lullabies to calm the cows at night, and also to soothe the animals during milking.
[Updated 8/22: The author of the article states yodeling can be traced to Africa but only discusses Tibet. Obviously Tibet isn't in Africa... sorry for the confusion. --Z.P.]