Scientists believe a first set of tests of hairs brought back from India give the "most positive evidence yet" that the Yeti exists.

Last week, scientists at the university tested a number of hair strands taken from what was claimed to be a Yeti-like creature in India.

The Brookes boffins used microscopes to analyse samples found in the West Garo jungle of the north-eastern state of Meghalaya.

Scientists at the university have carried out further tests using an electron microscope, after discovering that the hairs bore a startling resemblance to those brought back from the Himalayas by Sir Edmund Hillary half a century ago.

Ape expert Ian Redmond, who is coordinating the research, said they had ruled out the hairs belonging to Asiatic black bears, macaque monkeys, humans, dogs, and wild boar.

Mr Redmond said: "The hairs are the most positive evidence yet that a Yeti might possibly exist. We are very excited."

The Yeti is an apelike creature reputed to live in the Himalaya region of Nepal and Tibet. It was dubbed the Abominable Snowman in 1921 after an expedition to Mount Everest.

After being brought to Oxford, the hairs from India were magnified 200 times, and one of them was cast in varnish to make a better two-dimensional image.

Mr Redmond added: "There is a resemblance with the photo-micro- graphs of the hairs brought back by Sir Edmund Hillary.

"The latest hairs will now be sent off for DNA testing. If the DNA test cannot identify the creature, it should be able to work out what it is related to.

"Follicles containing cells remain on the base of the hairs so there is every chance that we will be able to get even closer to the truth. It could easily be an unknown primate."

The sample hairs for the four animals so far ruled out were provided by the Museum of Natural History in Oxford.

Zoe Forbes, a spokesman for Oxford Brookes, said: "The testing of the hairs is a three-stage process, involving microscopic analysis, analysis under a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), and then the extraction of DNA.

"The SEM analysis is also taking place at Brookes, but if it confirms the original findings, the hairs will be sent to other laboratories for DNA extraction."