The first animal to orbit the Earth was a dog called Laika. She was launched into space aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957. She was a stray dog from the streets of Moscow in Russia. In the early days of space flight animals were used to test the safety of the technology, before humans tried it.
For further reading on the history of animals in space click here.
For an animation of Laika’s story, please see below: