40 Animals that Changed History

A 1786 description of the historic Montgolfier Brothers’ 1783 hot air balloon, depicting a similar vessel to that used by Montauciel that same year. Wikimedia Commons

30. In 1783, a sheep called Montauciel became the first land mammal to fly

In September 1783, the Montgolfier brothers invented the hot air balloon. Harnessing the power of flight represented a huge step forward, but a dangerous one. Before trying it out themselves, the Montgolfiers staged a public exhibition in Versailles with some unusual passengers. Heading where no man had ever gone, a sheep, a duck, and a cockerel climbed into the basket. The balloon flew for 8 minutes before crashing a few kilometres away. All the animals survived, but the survival of Montauciel the sheep provided the crucial assurance of the craft’s safety. The Montgolfier brothers followed in Montauciel’s hoofprints weeks later.