Sometimes it is the footnotes in history that are the most curious and interesting. This is true with the case of the parachuting live sheep. This tidbit of history occurred during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War which took place between 1932 and 1936 in northeast Ethiopia. The area was the Danakil Desert, which was dubbed "the cruelest place on Earth" by National Geographic. It was also most likely one of the largest grocery deliveries ever.
We all know that Italians take great delight in good food -- FRESH food. It is said that this extended to the guys with boots on the ground in 120 degree heat. They were dissatisfied with the canned rations provided to them and refused to eat them. So some unknown person came up with the idea of parachuting live animals to the troops since there was no refrigeration available.
Supplies were already being parachuted in to the men. This was still a new concept at the time since aviation itself was still in its infancy. There was a "flying supply column" that already regularly dropped supplies such as food, water, and ammunition to the troops. So what's the harm in adding some livestock?
By the time the Italians had made their way through the desert it was reported that 72 sheep and 2 bulls had been dropped in to feed the men. In fact there is even some very grainy footage of the sheep being dropped and soldiers happily herding them together.
I don't know why a couple of crates of chickens couldn't have been dropped as well, but maybe they thought there was something odd about making flightless birds fly. Of course, with all that heat they would have been fried chickens by the time they landed. It would have saved the cook some time.
Images via The Atlantic
Sources: The Atlantic, Today I Found Out