5 Things You Didn't Know About Billy The Kid

On August 17, 1877, the legendary Billy the Kid, whose real name was Henry McCarty, killed his first man, an Arizona blacksmith named Frank Cahill. Think you know Billy the Kid? Here are five of the most interesting facts about the young outlaw...


His Real Name Is A Topic Of Debate What was Billy the Kid's real name? He went by many names -- Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, William Henry Bonney (William H. Bonney), Oliver P. Roberts (Ollie), and, most notably, Billy the Kid. He was born Henry McCarty, but there's some speculation that his dad may have been a man named William Bonney. Antrim was his step-father's last name; and he went by that for some time as well as "Kid Antrim". Two different versions of a wanted poster dated September 23, 1875, also refer to him as "Wm. Wright, better known as Billy the Kid". 

He Was Involved In At Least Nine Murders The Kid was known for his easygoing personality, but he wasn’t afraid to draw his six-shooter when provoked. In a four-year span between 1877 and 1881, the baby-faced outlaw was involved in the shooting deaths of some nine men, although he claimed he had killed 21 people. One particularly legendary gunfight unfolded in 1880 at a New Mexico saloon with a drunk named Joe Grant who was terrorizing the bar’s patrons. The Kid approached Grant and said, “That’s a mighty nice looking six-shooter you got.” He then slipped Grant’s gun out of its holster, spun its cylinder so that its next shot would be an empty chamber, and handed it back. It proved to be a wise move. Soon after, Grant pulled the same pistol on the Kid and tried to shoot the Kid. When it didn’t fire, the Kid drew his own gun and shot Grant dead.


The Kid Never Robbed a Train or a Bank Unlike other Old West outlaws such as Jesse James, Cole Younger or Butch Cassidy, Billy the Kid didn’t make his living as a bandit. The young gunslinger stole the occasional horse, but he never once held up a bank, train or even a stagecoach. Outside of his gunfighting days with the Regulators, his main criminal enterprise was rustling cattle on the New Mexico plains.

He’s Been The subject of More Than 50 Movies The Kid was a celebrity in his own time, but his legend only grew after his death thanks to novels, television shows and Hollywood films. Beginning with the 1911 silent film “Billy the Kid,” the gun-toting outlaw’s story has appeared on the big screen more than 50 times. Some of the most famous actors to play the Kid include Roy Rogers, Paul Newman, Val Kilmer and Emilio Estevez.

The Kid's Case Came up for Review for a Possible Pardon in 2010 Toward the end of former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's last term in office in 2010, he took another look at a pardon that had been proposed for Billy the Kid back in the 1800s. The pardon was part of a deal between a former governor and the Kid: a pardon in exchange for testifying for the state. Unfortunately, even though Billy the Kid kept his part of the deal, he was never pardoned. Richardson was not the first 21st-century lawmaker to look at granting the pardon, and in each case, descendants of both the Kid's family and Garrett, as well as descendants of others murdered by Billy the Kid, gave passionate testimony regarding pardoning or not pardoning. In the end, Richardson declined to pardon the Kid in 2011.