Inbreeding depression threatens the survival of small populations of both captive and wild outbreeding species. In order to fully understand this threat, it is necessary to investigate what role purging plays in reducing inbreeding depression. Ballou (1997) undertook such an investigation on 25 mammalian populations, using an ancestral inbreeding regression model to detect purging. He concluded that there was a small but highly significant trend of purging on neonatal survival across the populations. We tested the performance of the regression model that Ballou used to detect purging on independently simulated data. We found that the model has low statistical power when inbreeding depression is caused by the build-up of mildly deleterious alleles. It is therefore possible that Ballou's study may have underestimated the effects of ancestral inbreeding on the purging of inbreeding depression in captive populations if their inbreeding depression was caused mainly by mildly deleterious mutations. We also developed an alternative regression model to Ballou's, which showed an improvement in the detection of purging of mildly deleterious alleles but performed less well if deleterious alleles were of a large effect.