Structurally, the pied crow is better thought of as a small crow-sized Raven (except the lack of throat hackles, fan-shaped tail and other more crow-like traits), especially as it can hybridise with the Somali crow (sometimes called the Dwarf Raven) where their ranges meet in the Horn of Africa. Its behaviour, though, is more typical of the Eurasian carrion crows, and it may be a modern link (along with the Somali crow) between the Eurasian crows and the common raven.
It is approximately the size of the European carrion crow (46–52 cm in length) but has a longer bill, slightly longer tail and wings, and longer legs. As its name suggests, its glossy black head and neck are interrupted by a large area of white feathering from the shoulders down to the lower breast but the tail, bill and wings are black. The eyes of a fully matured bird are dark brown. The white plumage of immature birds is often mixed with black. It resembles the White-necked and thick-billed ravens but is much smaller, less stocky and has a smaller bill.