Lincoln County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Mexico. As of the 2010 census, the population was 20,497, making it the fourteenth least populated county and the eighteenth most populated county in New Mexico. Its county seat is Carrizozo, while its largest community is Ruidoso.
It was once the largest county in the United States. In the late 1870s the so-called Lincoln County War broke out between ranchers and the owners of the county's largest general store. William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, became involved on the side of the ranchers after his friend and employer was killed. In the end, Bonney killed the deputy that killed his friend, another deputy, and the county sheriff. Several other people were slain in the conflict, which included the other leader of the rancher faction. His death ended the conflict. In 1878, the new territorial governor, retired Union General Lew Wallace, offered an amnesty to the combatants in order to bring a long-lasting truce between the factions.
Today, Lincoln County is a much more peaceful county. Most of the population is centered in the southern portion of the county in the Greater Ruidoso Area. The town of Carrizozo serves as the county seat and is located in the Tularosa Basin northwest of Ruidoso. Ruidoso boasts several small suburbs and neighbor communities including Ruidoso Downs, Hollywood, Mescalero, and Alto which contribute to the Ruidoso Micropolitan Statistical Area's population of 21,224. Ruidoso serves as the second largest city in south central New Mexico behind Alamogordo which is 46 miles southwest of the village. Ruidoso Downs located on the southern end of the county and southeast of Ruidoso operates the Ruidoso Down Racetrack and Casino. The track hosts both thoroughbred and quarter horse racing, notably the All American Futurity, the richest race in quarter horse racing. Historical figures from Lincoln County include Billy The Kid and Smokey Bear, whose names help drive the tourism trade that is heavily popularized within the county.