Relationships between pedigree coefficients of inbreeding and molecular metrics are generally weak, suggesting that measures of heterozygosity estimated using microsatellites may be poor surrogates of genome-wide inbreeding. We compare three endangered species of gazelles (Gazella) with different degrees of threat in their natural habitats, for which captive breeding programmes exist. For G. dorcas, the species with the largest founding population, the highest and most recent number of founding events, the correlation between pedigree coefficient of inbreeding and molecular metrics was higher than for outbred populations of mammals, probably because it has both higher mean f and variance. For the two species with smaller founding populations, conventional assumptions about founders, i.e. outbred and unrelated, are unrealistic. When realistic assumptions about the founders were made, clear relationships between pedigree coefficients of inbreeding and molecular metrics were revealed for G. cuvieri. This population had a small founding population, but it did experience admixture years later; thus, the relationship between inbreeding and molecular metrics in G. cuvieri is very similar to the expected values but lower than in G. dorcas. In contrast, no relationship was found for G. dama mhorr which had a much smaller founding population than had been previously assumed, which probably had high levels of inbreeding and low levels of genetic variability, and no admixture. In conclusion, the strength of the association between pedigree coefficient of inbreeding and molecular metrics among endangered species depends on the level of inbreeding and genetic variability present in the founding population, its size and its history.