The Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly referred to as Angola, is well-known for being one of the world's largest prisons, with more than 5,000 inmates living on an 18,000-acre plantation.
But here's something I didn't know: It's also home to one of the world's largest rodeos, with wild horse racing, bull-dodging, wild cow milking, and bull riding. The gates open for a public rodeo show every Saturday this month, although if you were hoping to attend this weekend, you're out of luck: According to the official Angola rodeo web site, the rodeo is sold out.
However, those who want to catch at least part of the rodeo can see a few clips from it on TV Tuesday night.
The upcoming edition of HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel has a segment on the Angola rodeo, in which Bernard Goldberg explores whether convicted criminals can be rehabilitated with help from rodeo -- and asks whether the whole thing is appropriate at all.
Is the rodeo safe for the prisoners? Not necessarily. One prisoner described an encounter with a bull on camera, saying, "His horn hooked me right up under my testicles, ripped them, and I looked down and both of my testicles were hanging in my hand. I mean, it wasn't torn off from the body but they were just hanging in the skin. I looked at them and that's when I felt the pain."
But Goldberg interviewed the rodeo's No. 1 supporter, Angola Warden Burl Cain, and seemed to come away impressed. From watching the segment, I was less enamored with Cain's methods than Goldberg was, but no matter your thoughts on this rodeo, the Real Sports segment is a fascinating account of an odd sporting event behind prison walls.
Real Sports first airs Tuesday night at 10 p.m. and re-airs throughout the month.
Getty Images photo caption: An inmate is tossed into the air by a bull as he competes in the Angola Prison Rodeo. The Angola Rodeo, the longest running prison rodeo in the nation, got its start in 1964. Proceeds from the Angola Prison Rodeo cover rodeo expenses and supplement the Louisiana State Penitentiary Inmate Welfare Fund, which provides for inmate educational and recreational supplies.